ROSTOV-ON-DON, Russia (AP) — Mexico’s biggest worry at the World Cup may be its fans instead of its next opponent, struggling South Korea.
The Mexican football federation was fined 10,000 Swiss francs ($10,000) and warned of further sanctions over a chant by supporters considered to be homophobic during the opening game against Germany. Fans in Mexico use the chant to insult opposing goalkeepers as they take a goal kick. Widely considered a slur, some argue there is no discriminatory intent.
As traveling Mexican fans prepare to descend on this southern Russian city, players and the federation are imploring them not to repeat it at Saturday’s match, in messages on television and social media. The Group F game will be attended by South Korean President Moon Jae-in.
“For the Mexican fan, the World Cup is a party. You can see it on the street the whole time. But at the stadium, fans should stop the chant, or modify it, or change it all together. It would be better for everyone,” Mexican federation general secretary Guillermo Cantu said.
FIFA had warned the federation, he said, that supporters identified as chanting the slur could have their Fan IDs canceled.
“The rules have been there since the tournament started, so in the end, it’s our responsibility.”
The team arrived in Rostov late Thursday and was greeted by a small group of fans outside their hotel.
The Mexicans have reached the last 16 in their six previous World Cups, and are on course to make it seven after beating Germany 1-0. Javier Hernandez tore past defenders and found Hirving Lozano for a stylish goal in the 35th minute.
Coach Juan Carlos Osorio is a fan of reshuffling his lineup — a tactic inspired by former Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson — but is likely to stick to many of his opening game starters, relying on his back four to stop the pacey Koreans.
Celebrations in Mexico City of the goal against Germany were so rowdy that seismologists checked reports of an artificial earthquake. It was eventually ruled out.
But Mexico midfielder Marco Fabian was one of several players who warned against complacency.
“We reached our first target and have beaten Germany, but we can’t sit back,” Fabian said. “Some consider us to be group favorites now, and that’s a compliment — but it’s one we shouldn’t believe. There are no favorites in this World Cup.”
The Koreans, stung by their 1-0 defeat by Sweden, could reconsider their attacking 4-3-3 formation that provided little threat and handed space to their opponents.
Midfielder Koo Ja-cheol, who plays at Bundesliga club Augsburg, said players were studying Mexico on their tablets and had identified Hernandez as the major threat.
“Of course we are not ready to give up. Everyone put in so much effort to get here,” Koo said. “What we want is to turn fans’ disappointment into joy.”
France defense excels in 1-0 victory over Peru in Group C
YEKATERINBURG, Russia (AP) — With all its attacking talent, France proved it also has class in defense.
Other coaches might envy Didier Deschamps, who has a forward line bursting with skill, speed and goals. But Peru coach Ricardo Gareca looked at the other end Thursday after his team lost 1-0.
“I think France did some outstanding work of defense,” said Gareca, whose team was eliminated while the French advanced to the knockout stage.
“Credit needs to be given to France, it’s not that Peru fell short,” Gareca said. “Unlike their other games, France had very strong tactical discipline to neutralize Peru. Something that wasn’t visible in their other matches.”
After Peru lost its opening game to Denmark 1-0, it needed a least a point against France to stay in contention following a 36-year absence from the tournament. With striker Paolo Guerrero back in the starting lineup, Peru’s players used any and every opportunity to put France under pressure.
It didn’t work.
Deschamps made two tactical changes for the game, using Olivier Giroud and Blaise Matuidi in the starting line-up. The result upfront was visible. France was more fluid than in the 2-1 victory over Australia and the cooperation between midfielders Paul Pogba and Ngolo Kante with the attackers resulted in a number of scoring opportunities.
But when Peru was on a desperate attack, they all were ready to help at the back.
It was not just defenders Benjamin Pavard, Raphael Varane, Samuel Umtiti and Lucas Hernandez who were solid for the second straight game.
“It doesn’t come only from the French defense,” Deschamps said. “The attacking players did what they had to do. They made an effort for the team to be compact, to work together. It was very important to have very solid defense.”
France neutralized Guerrero to a single chance in the first half. But goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, who made his 100th international appearance, saved his low shot from close range.
In the second half, France kept Peru at a distance, allowing mostly only long range attempts on goal.
Even such an offensive ace as Kylian Mbappe, who scored the winning goal in the first half, came to help.
“If the team needs it, you need to sacrifice yourself,” Mbappe said. “Today, sometimes we didn’t need to be up the field … this is what I did.”