Maybe Mexico should have recognised an ominous sign from the sparsely populated stands of Fisht Stadium after 15 minutes of their rollercoaster 2-1 win over New Zealand
As the action drifted, fans decided to entertain themselves. Surely a Mexican wave, given the participants? That would have to wait.
Fittingly, given the misery Chris Wood threatened to inflict upon Juan Carlos Osorio’s side, many supporters launched into a ‘Viking’ thunderclap – the craze that charmed the world during Iceland’s remarkable run to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016.
The background tumult to one upset story looked for a while like it would precede another and Anthony Hudson’s industrious side did more than a little to bring to mind the exploits of Lars Lagerback and Heimir Hallgrimsson’s over-achievers.
Decked out in an all-black strip made famous by New Zealand’s rugby union team, Hudson’s men played with some of the fearlessness associated with their country’s more famous sporting standard-bearers.
Wood should have scored before he did and might have done so again shortly afterwards. Mexico were flattered by a 1-0 deficit at the interval and there will be withering criticism across the Atlantic for Osorio.
The Columbian coach is a staunch advocate of a rotation system that is treated sceptically by many of El Tri’s faithful. Sending out a side displaying eight changes from the opening 2-2 draw against Portugal, and who played like strangers for the opening 45 minutes, will do him no favours in that regard.
His decision to introduce Hector Herrera at half-time did prove pivotal, the Porto midfielder lending a structure and tempo to Mexico’s play that was entirely absent before he arrived.
Another Primeira Liga player, Benfica’s Raul Jimenez, blasted a 54th-minute equaliser through the hands of New Zealand goalkeeper Stefan Marinovic before the seasoned Oribe Peralta broke the hearts of New Zealand’s players, staff and the handful of fans who made the trip from St Petersburg to Sochi following the opening loss to the hosts.
The tournament outsiders last beat a nation outside Oceania eight years ago and that wait is likely to go on after they say farewell to Russia with a closing group game against Portugal.
Nevertheless, Hudson and his players should take plenty of heart from prompting a fiercely competitive match where one was not expected.
The stage fright that afflicted them in St Petersburg was nowhere to be seen and they took the game to a beleaguered Mexico.
At right wing-back, 18-year-old Dane Ingham went about his task tirelessly, while fellow youngster Clayton Lewis shone alongside PEC Zwolle’s Ryan Thomas in midfield.
Perhaps anticipating a backs-to-the-wall approach from their opponents, Mexico found themselves getting picked apart with surprising regularity. They were spared by Wood leaving a portion of the form that helped him to 30 goals for Leeds United last season back in West Yorkshire.
The hulking striker finished Thomas’ clipped throughball with aplomb in the 42nd minute but spurned two other one-on-ones – the latter immediately before Jimenez’s leveller.
Quicksilver winger Javier Aquino was Mexico’s best player and he claimed his second assist by brilliantly creating Peralta’s winner, but New Zealand were not done.
Far from collapsing to a heavier loss, they charged back at a side ranked 78 places above them. Thomas rattled the bar and Marinovic found himself in the opposition penalty area during an absurdly frantic period of injury time that featured a mass on-field brawl.
New Zealand are likely to find themselves as huge underdogs again in a play-off to reach Russia 2018 against a CONMEBOL nation. They should bottle some of what they showed in Sochi and you never know. Just ask Iceland.