Mexico plays on the wire. Tata Martino’s team has one last call in the World Cup. At the moment, it is the last place in group C and it needs to revive against Saudi Arabia, thrash, and take out the calculator to follow the match between Poland and Argentina. A challenge that, on the field, is possible, but in the odds it looks complicated. The other Mexican challenge will also be to score a goal, something that has been a serious problem in the last four years.
The albiceleste team has breathed thanks to the 2-0 victory against El Tri. The Mexicans knew how to withstand the attacks against them for more than 60 minutes. Martino chose to play defense with five players and without a fixed striker. Something cautious before an Argentina that played everything. In a distraction by the Mexicans Érick Gutiérrez and Héctor Herrera they caused captain Messi to sneak in to score the goal that released the tension between his team in Qatar and on Argentine soil. Already the second goal, that of Enzo Fernández, crushed the hopes of Mexico to change its losing story against the South Americans. Martino, when he had lost it, tried to remedy his starting eleven by putting in Raúl Jiménez to look for a score.
Martino assured before the World Cup that it seemed excessive to have more than three center forwards. He clipped the wings of hopeful Santiago Giménez, from Feyenoord, and summoned only three forwards: Jiménez, Henry Martín and Rogelio Funes Mori. The Rosario strategist, however, has left Funes Mori on the bench, the attacker who did score a friendly against Iraq. He gave Martín a chance against Poland and there was no luck. Jiménez, the iron bet of the Argentine, has not worked in the 43 minutes that he has stepped on the field.
The Jiménez case has shaken the management of a Tata Martino who summoned him despite spending 77 days injured in 2022, days before the start of the World Cup. Inactivity has taken its toll on a player who, in his good times, was one of the most effective in the Premier League with Wolves. His goal romance ended abruptly when a hard header against David Luiz landed him in the emergency room for treatment of a fractured skull. Jiménez avoided death by miracle. His history, leadership and hierarchy earned Martino to make him immovable in his team. Mexico’s goal drought in the World Cup had not been seen since Chile 1962 when he failed to score against Brazil or Spain in the first two games, but he did beat Czechoslovakia 3-1. That time he didn’t make it past the first round.
Of course, the goals are not always from nine. Alexis Vega tried in two options to open the scoring in favor of Mexico against Argentina: a free kick and a shot from long distance. In both he was unlucky. Hirving Lozano, the Napoli sprinter, has provided more passes than shots on goal.
What does Mexico need to qualify for the round of 16?
Mexico must beat Saudi Arabia. Not only that: they must score more than two goals to open up the goal difference against Poland and Argentina. Also, El Tri must be aware of what the Poles and Argentines do. The Mexicans must thrash the Saudis and the Argentines must do the same. Otherwise, it can be useful for Poland to thrash the Argentines by three goals and for El Tri to do the same against the Asian team.
Mexico has qualified for the round of 16 since 1994. In case of being left out, you have to go back to the 1978 World Cup in Argentina to remember the last time the Mexicans lost in the group stage. That time they were thrashed 3-1 by Tunisia, beaten 6-0 by West Germany and 3-1 by Poland.
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