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Cinco de Mayo in June?

On the international level, comparing France and Mexico may seem like apples and oranges but the two nation’s share a bit of history that led to a day that’s very familiar to many Americans.

In 1861, Mexico was a country very much in debt when President Benito Juarez decided to stop paying the creditors: England, Spain, and naturally France. While this little spat was resolved with the first two nations, it led to an armed conflict between the 2nd French Empire and the Mexican Republic.

As in today’s encounter, France was the decided favorite as they began to invade and by 1863 French forces took over the capital. It would be four more years until Mexico City was again in Mexican hands restoring the national pride.

However, despite the end result of the French Intervention, it was a May afternoon in 1862 that is perhaps the most remembered event of the conflict. In the town of Puebla, a group of 4,000 Mexican soldiers defeated 8,000 French who were by all means the better equipped side.

This unlikely event is today recognized as Cinco de Mayo and while only relegated to a regional holiday in Mexico, it is by far more widely celebrated in the United States. Being more than just an excuse to have a couple drinks every May 5th, it is a source of Mexican pride that will be on the minds of more than one player on El Tri and represents the last time a European power has invaded the Americas.

In 6 tries, Mexico has never defeated Les Bleus (being outscored 15 to 4) and once again is the underdog. With that said, there could not be any more incentive to achieve victory today. Although El tri is fielding one of their top teams ever, France is filled with superstars who have achieved almost everything on the club and international level and will look to control play. But if the Mexicans can notch 3 points against the group favorite and push themselves through to the round of 16, one has to wonder, will we soon have a new holiday?

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