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

Henry Martin and Luis Chavez scored for Mexico as they Saudi Arabia 2-1 in a thrilling Group C match, but it wasn’t 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 the Saudi defence appeared to collapse. In the other Group C game, Argentina also went 2-0 up 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.

The Saudis came into the game knowing that 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 or hope for a favourable result from the Poland-Argentina game.

The first 45 minutes were relatively uneventful. The Saudi team managed to weather waves of Mexican attacks while trying to hit back on the break.

By the end of the first half, with both Group C matches scoreless, qualification seemed out of reach for El Tri. However, within a short time of the restart, Mexican fans were able to dream again.

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 freekick from 30 years 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.

Despite that late goal, it was a disappointing result for the Saudis, 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 that Saudi Arabia finishes bottom of the group.

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

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