Mexico Fans Pack in at Stadium 974, Propel Strong First Half Effort

Mexico Fans Pack in at Stadium 974, Propel Strong First Half Effort originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

You can’t understate the impact of the Mexican fan base. Playing over 8,000 miles away from home, fans of the top-ranked North American country showed up in droves, with commentators even comparing it to a home match at Estadio Azteca, the famous stadium in Mexico City.

The Mexican national team, referred to as “El Tri” after the tri-colored flag, opened their tournament with one of the most anticipated games of group stage – taking on Poland in what was considered to be a potentially decisive match for the knockout round.

Both sides got a slight relief earlier in the day when Saudi Arabia beat the heavily-favored Argentine team, but that didn’t change the stakes for the thousands of Mexico fans that descended upon Stadium 974 just hours later.

The Eagles entered Tuesday’s match at peak performance. Poland, led by 34-year-old Robert Lewandowski, won their last two matches against Wales and Chile. Meanwhile, Mexico entered Qatar having lost three of their last five friendlies, all to teams that didn’t qualify for the World Cup.

That fan support proved crucial to the team’s premiere in Qatar, as they outshot Poland 5-1 and controlled possession 63% of the first half.