Despite defeating Saudi Arabia 2-1 in the dramatic Group C final match on Wednesday, Mexico was eliminated from the World Cup on goal differential.
Mexico won thanks to goals from Henry Martin and Luis Chavez in the second half, but following Salem Al-late Dawsari’s goal, they fell to third place behind Poland.
Mexico, who was in danger of being eliminated due to FIFA fair play rules, fought valiantly for a third goal in an effort to raise their goal differential.
One of the biggest surprises of the World Cup was Saudi Arabia’s victory over Argentina in their first game, but they came crashing back to earth when they lost to Poland 2-0 in their next match.
Coach Herve Renard exhorted his team to prove they weren’t just a one-hit wonder by making history in Saudi football by making it to the knockout rounds for the first time since 1994.
Mexico knew a win was necessary if they wanted to have a chance of making it out of their group and into the round of 16 at an eighth straight World Cup after failing to win either of their first two group games for the first time in 44 years.
Gerardo Martino, the manager of Mexico, substituted Martin for the back five he had in place against Argentina in order to lead the attack.
It almost immediately paid off, but Saudi goalkeeper Mohammed Al-Owais sprinted out to stop Alexis Vega after Hirving Lozano had slipped him in behind the defense.
One of the heroes of the 2-1 victory over Argentina was Al-Owais, who handled weak attempts from Chavez and Orbelin Pineda then hesitantly palmed away a bouncing cross in front of a lunging Martin.
Ali Al-Bulayhi, a defender for Saudi Arabia, was taken off the field due to injury, adding to their growing list of casualties. Mohamed Kanno curled a free kick narrowly over for Saudi Arabia.
Ali Al-Hassan nearly sent the majority of the predominantly Saudi audience into a frenzy late in the first half with a diving header that flashed wide of the far post as Mexico continued to assault but without result.
Following the break, Chavez tested Al-Owais, and Martin quickly broke the tie when he turned in from close range after Cesar Montes’ deft flick-on at a corner.
Five minutes later, Chavez sensationally curled a free kick into the top corner from 30 meters away to score Mexico’s second goal.
While keeping an eye on the score between Poland and Argentina, Mexico worked tirelessly to score a third goal, but Lozano’s attempt was disallowed for a slight offside.
When Martin had a wonderful opportunity, he blazed over, and Chavez had another free kick saved by Al-Owais, who also sprawled to his right to claw out a drive from Lozano.
After another Uriel Antuna goal was ruled out for offside, Al-late Dawsari’s score put an end to the suspense.