Sau close yet so far for eliminated Mexico

Mexico completed their FIFA World Cup (FWC) Group C campaign with a 2-1 victory over Saudi Arabia, but it wasn’t enough as the Mexicans failed to advance to the last-16 for the first time since 1994 by way of an inferior goal difference to fellow group side Poland, who progressed at their expense.

Saudi Arabia and Mexico both knew that emerging victorious from this high-stakes Group C encounter would give them every chance of advancing to the knockout stages of the FWC. However, much was riding on the opposing Argentina-Poland fixture, particularly for Gerardo Martino’s team, who were still searching for their first victory, and first goal, in Qatar to finally make their mark on the tournament.

As anticipated ahead of kick-off, Mexico dominated possession in their first competitive meeting with Saudi Arabia since 1999. Seeking to make their superiority count, Alexis Vega, Luis Chávez and Orbelín Pineda tested Mohammed Al-Owais, but Mexico were unable to bring an end to their dry spell in front of goal prior to the interval.

After a first half cluttered with persistent fouling, Mexico finally broke their unwanted hoodoo in the 48th minute and netted their first goal of the 2022 FWC through Henry Martín, who slotted the ball into an empty net. Just five minutes later, an incredible long-range set piece from Chávez doubled the two-time FWC quarter-finalists’ advantage with hope resonating across the stands.

In an action-packed finale, news that Argentina had taken the lead against Poland filtered through to the Lusail Stadium, meaning for a long period, it all boiled down to Mexico and Poland’s disciplinary records throughout the tournament so far, in which the European side held the advantage. Knowing that a goal would change their destiny, Mexico upped their pursuit in a brave bid to clinch second place with Saudi appearing to offer little in resistance.

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However, after Martino’s men rued a number of missed opportunities, Saudi struck a late dagger into Mexico hearts when Al-Dawsari fired in, although it would only be a small consolation for a side who were eliminated along with the Mexicans at the first hurdle. The result means Saudi have failed to advance past the group stages once again; their previous and only time came in 1994, whilst a distraught Mexico must now look ahead to their next round of CONCACAF Nations League matches in March.


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