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 By Tom Marshall
Jun 12, 2014

World Cup fever grips Mexico

Almost 5,000 miles separate the official World Cup opening ceremony in Sao Paulo with Guadalajara.

In the capital of the state of Jalisco -- from which eight of Mexico's 23 players hail -- samba may lose out to the unmistakable tones of banda, but there is a shared ingrained excitement about getting arguably sport's greatest event underway.

At the famous San Juan de Dios market -- said to be Latin America's largest indoors -- stalls have stocked up on "replica" versions of Mexico jerseys, and they are easily outselling anything else, with vendors saying they are struggling to keep up with demand.

At the birria eateries on the second floor, staff have brought in two televisions from home for Mexico's World Cup opener on Friday against Cameroon at 11 a.m. local time, one for each side of the place.

"I can see Mexico getting out the group and getting to the quarterfinals," said Mario Alcalde, who serves at one of the joints, which tend to stand out due to the goat skulls resting on the top of the counter to advertise what is on offer. "I know we were terrible in qualifying, but I like 'Piojo' [Mexico coach Miguel Herrera] and I think he can get the team playing."

Such optimism hasn't been widely shared by pundits and the press.

Former striker Hugo Sanchez was on Tuesday's "Futbol Picante" talking about how he believes Herrera's time to become national team coach hadn't arrived and predicted a round of 16 exit for El Tri, while current Atlas coach Tomas Boy -- who was a strong candidate for Herrera's job -- also chipped in with his doubts about the creativity in Mexico's current team on "Jorge Ramos y su Banda."

Former international Hugo Sanchez hasn't shared in the optimism of the general Mexican public.

The newspapers have been generally on the cautious side, too, but that type of rationality will likely give way to rampant bombastic nationalistic fervor the nearer Friday's kickoff gets.

And it is hard to criticize it. This is an event that comes round only once every four years and it is difficult to deny a nation that raw enthusiasm about their team's chances of succeeding, even if it may be misguided.

"None us will be out here when the game is on," laughed one shoe-shiner, who works in Guadalajara's central Plaza Tapatia. "We'll stay at home, watch the game and then come to work."

Up north, Tijuana's maquiladoras will also grind to a temporary halt while Mexico plays, even if workers will have to make up the hours, while a survey by Manpower Group showed that almost seven out of 10 employers nationwide are resigned to lower productivity levels from their employees during the World Cup.

Just over six out of every 10 companies will let their employees watch Mexico's opener versus Cameroon, according to a study by Trabajando.com, although 56 percent of the ones who won't be permitted suggested they'd watch it anyway, while bosses are either not looking or turning a blind eye.

The roads around the country will be peaceful come 11 a.m. Friday, but possibly not for long. If Mexico should win, that will change quickly. Thousands will charge immediately to Guadalajara's Minerva statue, Mexico City's Angel de la Independencia, Monterrey's Macroplaza or other local gathering points to celebrate a vital opening three points.