Mexico has qualified for every World Cup since 1994, and each time the national soccer team has managed to pass the group stage only to be eliminated in the Round of 16. Except for 2002, when Mexico ignominiously — for soccer fans — went out 2-0 to Team USA, and a 3-1 loss to Argentina in 2010, the games have been close. On three occasions, the national side took the lead against Germany, Argentina, and Holland only to end up losing 2-1. And once there was a penalty shootout loss to Bulgaria.
The 2018 World Cup played in Russia started out auspiciously for Mexico with a surprise 1-0 win against Germany and, after a 2-1 defeat of South Korea, Mexico appeared set to win the toughest group in the tournament.
Alas! As predisposed as Mexico is to surprise its fans with unexpected victories, the national team is equally prone to turning-in a dreadful performance. This time it was in the shape of a 3-0 loss to Sweden, which meant the team scraped through with Germany’s unexpected 2-0 loss to the South Koreans: a result which put the defending champions out of the tournament and left Mexico in second place to face none other than five-time World Cup champions Brazil on Monday July 2 in knockout Round of 16.
At first blush, that sounded like the end of the road and Mexico’s chances of reaching the quarter finals for the first time since 1986—the last year it hosted the tournament. By the time the two teams met again in Russia, Mexico and Brazil had played each other 40 times in total, with Brazil winning 23 games, Mexico 10, and seven match draws. Monday’s match was their fifth meeting in World Cups, and the history wasn’t too encouraging for Mexico: three losses and a draw, with Brazil scoring 11 goals and Mexico none. In other words, Mexico had never scored against Brazil in a World Cup.
No surprise then that Brazil’s odds at the bookmakers were 1/2 to beat Mexico, meaning the South American giants were given a 67% chance of winning. Mexico’s odds at kick-off were trading at around 6/1 which translates into a 14% chance of winning.
The great thing about sports, and soccer especially, is that past performances don’t determine the outcome of a game. There’s always hope. After all, Mexico’s record against Germany in World Cups before the present tournament was two losses and one draw (which Mexico lost on penalties), and it included a 6-0 drubbing in 1978.
In the event, Mexico delivered a solid performance in the first half of the game against Brazil and missed a serendipitous opening which would have given the team a crucial lead at the beginning of the second half. Brazil immediately took back the initiative and scored, taking the lead 1-0 in the 51st minute of the game. With 88 minutes played, the Brazilian team scored again, and even with 6 minutes of injury time added, Mexico were unable to pull a goal back, ending the team’s participation in this tournament, and leaving Mexico with the job of scoring a World Cup goal against Brazil to some future match.
For those who don’t follow soccer but were wondering, the U.S. team failed to qualify for the Russia World Cup when it lost its final qualifying game against Trinidad and Tobago last year.
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