World Cup: Valiant Mexico wait for a ‘fifth’ game
For a long time after the final whistle, Luis Chavez crouched on the field in anguish.
He had just scored in Mexico’s furious attempt to stay alive at the World Cup, but the 2-1 victory on Wednesday over Saudi Arabia wasn’t enough. Because of Argentina’s 2-0 win over Poland, Mexico failed to advance out of their group for the first time since 1978.
“We had a chance to qualify,” Chavez said glumly. “We didn’t achieve it.”
Mexico had reached the knockout round at the last seven World Cups, second only to Brazil.
El Tri went into the match at Lusail Stadium needing both a victory and help from Poland playing across town to advance in Group C. Argentina’s victory meant goal difference came into play — and Mexico didn’t have enough of them.
Henry Martin scored in the 48th minute and the team’s chances got even better with Chavez’s goal on a free kick four minutes later.
“We needed one more goal. I didn’t know exactly what happened at the end,” said veteran Mexico goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa, who was playing in his fifth World Cup.
“I must say that I assume all the responsibility for this massive failure,” Mexico coach Garardo “Tata” Martino said. After the match, Martino said his contract with Mexico had ended with the final whistle.
Mexico advanced to the round of 16 in their last seven appearances — but no further. El Tri came to Qatar looking to play in an elusive “quinto partido” — a fifth game — for the first time since Mexico hosted the tournament in 1986.