Mexico failed to qualify for the World Cup knockout stages despite producing one of the narrow World Cup results of the weekend action. An entertaining Group C conclusion at the Lusail Stadium was made possible by Argentina’s 2-0 triumph over Poland, Henry Martin’s first-half goal, and Luis Chavez’s magnificent free-kick. To avoid leaving the group due to a low fair play point total, Mexico had three stoppage time minutes to score the third goal required. Salem Al-Dawsari scored in injury time to prevent Mexico from passing Poland in the standings and make them need two more goals. Saudi Arabia was unable to secure the victory necessary to guarantee their entry into the round of 16.
The national anthems, where the majority Saudi crowd’s emotional performance was matched by the Mexican contingent, perfectly captured the drama and suspense that would soon unfold. Alexis Vega’s third-minute shot was excellently stopped by Saudi goalkeeper Mohammed Al-Owais, preventing Mexico from taking an early lead. Before the frantic start settled and Mexico started to gain control of the game, Mohamed Kanno smashed over from a tight angle and Saudi skipper Salem Al-Dawsari whistled free-kick inches over the bar within the first 12 minutes.
Midway in the game, Hassan Altambakti and Abdulelah Al Amri teamed up to stop Oberlin Pineda’s shot, and Sultan Al Ghanam expertly stopped the Mexican playmaker’s diving header. The half belonged to the much-improved Mexicans, who took just two minutes to establish their dominance after the break when Henry Martin converted Cesar Montes’ flick from a corner to give them the lead. Ali Al-Hassan missed a header in stoppage time for Saudi Arabia. Mexico’s first goal of the competition broke the chains, and five minutes later, Chavez’s spectacular long-range free-kick doubled their lead and brought them within one goal of eliminating Poland’s advantage in goal differential.
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