A second-half equaliser from Alina Garciamendez booked Mexico a place in the quarter-finals as Group C winners by virtue of goals scored, with opponents Nigeria also making it through to the knockout stages following their 1-1 draw in Bochum today.
The Mexicans will meet the second placed side from Group D in Dresden, while Nigeria await the winners of the same section in Augsburg. However, England and Japan, who made up the section, must travel home.
In the early stages of an entertaining game, Nigeria had more of the ball but failed to create any clear cut changes, largely due to the tenacious pressing of the Mexicans, who forced their opponents into making several errors. However, the Africans took the lead with their first real chance of the game. Cecilia Santiago did well to turn Amarachi Okoronkwo’s shot out for a corner and from the resulting set-piece, Ebere Orji struck from close range after Esther Sunday headed Helen Ukaonu’s cross into her path.
Mexico had a good chance to equalizer when Stephany Majoy found herself unmarked in the box with just the goalkeeper to beat, but slipped at the crucial moment and the chance went begging. At the other end, Nigeria almost doubled their advantage when Orji’s cross from the left wing looped over Santiago and clipped the far post.
Most of Mexico’s attacking impetus came from Charlyn Corral, but she found herself to be frustrated by a resolute defensive display from the Nigerians, who had two players trying to mark her when she found herself in possession. But she almost found a way through on the stroke of half-time when her corner was headed towards goal by Nayeli Rangel, who forced Alaba Jonathan into a smart save.
The two most dangerous players for either side, Corral and Orji were both replaced at half-time, which interrupted both teams’ flow and consequently few chances were created after the restart.
In the 73rd minute, Mexico substitute Natalia Gomez Junico had a decent chance to equalise with a header from close range, but her effort sailed over the crossbar. However, five minutes later, parity was restored when Natalia Garcia’s header from a corner found Garciamendez who controlled the ball with her chest and hammered a right-footed volley into the net from close range.
It was a goal which completely changed the outcome of the game and the group, leaping the Mexicans from third to first, with Japan, who defeated England 3-1 in the section’s other game missing out on qualification by a single point.