Mexico defeat Saudi Arabia but fail to make World Cup last 16

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Mexican players were distraught at the end of the match [Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera]

Mexico’s 2-1 victory against Saudi Arabia was not enough for them to advance from Group C, as Poland and Argentina progress.

Henry Martin and Luis Chavez scored for Mexico as they defeated Saudi Arabia 2-1 in a thrilling Group C match, but it was not enough for El Tri to qualify for the World Cup knockout stage, with Poland snatching the second qualifying spot in the group behind Argentina.

Two goals in quick succession early in the second half gave Mexico a 2-0 lead on Wednesday as Saudi Arabia’s defence appeared to collapse. In the other Group C game, Argentina also was up 2-0 against Poland.

The Mexicans needed one more goal to overtake Poland on goal difference and get through the group but it was the Saudis who scored in the dying moments of the game making it 2-1.

Saudi Arabia came into the game knowing a win would earn them a spot in the Round of 16 regardless of the Argentina-Poland result. But the stars had to align for the Mexican players who needed to win their own match by a large margin and hope for a favourable result from the Poland-Argentina game.

Hirving Lozano #22
Hirving Lozano had a goal disallowed [Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera]

The first 45 minutes saw the Mexican side dominate possession and try to exploit the space behind the Saudi defence but they struggled to create clear chances.

With both Group C matches scoreless at half-time, qualification seemed out of reach for El Tri. But a goal shortly after half-time gave new hope to the boisterous Mexican fans in the stadium and those watching around the world.

In the 47th minute, Martin bundled the ball into the back of the net from a corner kick. It was Mexico’s first goal of the tournament. Five minutes later, an outrageous strike from Chavez – a free kick from nearly 30 yards out – doubled Mexico’s lead.

Meanwhile, Poland were struggling to contain Lionel Messi and his teammates who had gone 2-0 up by the 67th minute, thanks to goals from Alexis Mac Allister and Julian Alvarez.

By then, all Mexico needed was one more goal to make it to the last 16. They were tied with Poland on goal difference, goals scored and head-to-head points, but the Polish team had a better fair play record – fewer yellow cards.

A goal by Argentina would have also been enough for Mexico. But as the final whistle blew on the Poland-Argentina game, Salem Al-Dawsari scored against Mexico in the 95th minute making it 2-1.

“It’s a hard blow, there are no words,” said Mexico midfielder Edson Alvarez. “The team went out looking for it from the start and we had a lot of chances. But we couldn’t score and that leaves a bitter taste.”

Hirving Lozano, who saw a late goal disallowed for offside, apologised to Mexico fans for not doing enough in the first two matches – a goalless draw against Poland and a 2-0 loss to Argentina.

“We could have done more, but that’s football,” he said. “I always live the games to the maximum, always giving myself every game, every ball … but well, the results didn’t come.”

Despite the late goal, it was a disappointing result for Saudi Arabia, who started the tournament on a high, beating Argentina 2-1 against the odds.

The loss to Mexico that followed a 2-0 defeat to Poland means Saudi Arabia finish bottom of the group.

In the Round of 16, Poland will face France, and Argentina will take on Australia.

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES

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