ORLANDO, Fla. -- His players' legs were heavier than lead, their gasps for air frantic, and Mexican coach Miguel Mejia Baron was worried.
Ireland had just scored, cutting Mexico's lead to 2-1 with six minutes to play and sending a jolt of enthusiasm through the Irish faithful at the Citrus Bowl.
Baron was facing calamity. To have played two World Cup games and not have won either? Unthinkable. Unpardonable.
"There are many things that cross your mind in that situation," vTC Baron said. "Strange things happen in your head."
Strange things almost happened on the field, too. But Mexican goalkeeper Jorge Campos managed to stretch his full length to grab a curving shot by Andy Townsend in the 90th minute, preserving Mexico's triumph and leaving the four teams in Group E tied with three points each.
Mexico's hero was Luis Garcia, who was moved from center forward to right wing to revitalize Mexico's offense after its opening 1-0 loss to Norway.
Garcia capitalized on the Irish players' fatigue near the end of the first half, taking a short back-pass from Carlos Hermosillo and blasting a rolling shot past goalkeeper Pat Bonner and inside the left post.
Then, in the 66th minute, with the Irish pressing for a tie, Garcia took a short pass from Alberto Garcia Aspe -- who neatly dodged defender Denis Irwin -- and powered a right-footed shot past Bonner from outside the 18-yard box.
Baron wouldn't discuss Garcia's individual effort, preferring to praise his team's collective rebound from its opening defeat.
"I am very happy with my team," he said. "We played with an extraordinary spirit and we took our opportunities well. It was something very wonderful for me and for Mexico.
"My team played with great humility, worked very hard at their game and also had some luck."
Said Hermosillo: "We are in excellent position to advance into the second round. We must play Italy with the same passion and intensity. If we play as a team, we will win."
The Irish players and coach Jack Charlton felt it was their bad luck to play in Orlando, where they and the sellout crowd of
61,219 roasted in the intense heat and humidity.
"You're sweating the whole day if you're doing nothing, so imagine what it's like out there when you're playing," said midfielder Jason McAteer. "It takes a lot out of the lads."
Said Charlton: "Mexico played very well. They closed it down very quickly, which is remarkable in this heat. It was very much the way we play in Europe. Unfortunately, we weren't playing in Europe today. We were playing in 100-degree temperature in the southern part of America.
"It wasn't easy for us. But we accept that we lost the game. We'll play the next time in winter and see how it works out."
Each team is 1-1-0 with three points in the World Cup's Group E -- the so-called "Group of Death" -- creating a four-way tie with one game left in the first-round, round-robin competition.
The top two teams in each group will advance to the second round, along with the four third-place finishers with the best records.
Here is how Group E stands in relation to the tiebreakers:
* Goal differential -- Each team has scored the same number of goals as it has allowed.
* Total goals -- Mexico and Ireland each have scored twice, Italy and Norway once.
* Head-to-head competition -- Ireland 1, Italy 0; Norway 1, Mexico 0; Italy 1, Norway 0; Mexico 2, Ireland 1.
* Belgium vs. Netherlands at Orlando, Fla., 12:35 p.m., Ch. 7
* Saudi Arabia vs. Morocco at East Rutherford, N.J., 12:35 p.m.
* Argentina vs. Nigeria at Foxboro, Mass., 4:05 p.m., Ch. 7 (Ch. 13 joined in progress after Orioles game)