Javier Aguirre: Bruce Arena apologized to me after beating us in the 2002 World Cup

The former El Tri boss claims that then-U.S. coach Bruce Arena apologized for the Americans' defensive setup.
Javier Aguirre has characterized the 2002 World Cup Round of 16 loss to the U.S. as the low point of his managerial career.

The U.S. beat Mexico, 2-0, in a match disputed in South Korea in 2002. That also marked the last time either the U.S. or Mexico has made it as far as the quarterfinals of the World Cup.

The current Espanyol and two-time El Tri manager told ESPN that the match against Mexico’s bitter northern rival made him rethink whether he was cut out to be a coach.

“It made me think twice whether this was for me,” Aguirre said. “It hurt me deeply and stayed with me.”

Aguirre said he was most impacted because he felt Mexico deserved to win the game, and the U.S. played an ultra-defensive style not befitting that level of competition.

“For me, it was an unfair result,” Aguirre said. “Bruce Arena came up to me after the match and apologized, saying that his plan had been to wait back and exploit my mistakes.”

Aguirre led Mexico to the 2010 World Cup, then moved back to Spain, where he has held four different La Liga jobs in recent years. His current Espanyol team has won four of seven since Aguirre took the reigns, moving the Barcelona side clear of the relegation zone.