Mexico claimed a hard-fought 1-0 victory over England in Augsburg with a vital goal from Renae Cuellar in the 62nd minute to move to the top of Group C with four points. With only one point from two games, England are struggling to qualify for the quarter-finals.

Despite being outplayed for much of the match, Las Aztecas held on for the win. Ahead of Nigeria on goals scored, they will face the Falconets in Bochum on Wednesday knowing a draw will be enough to send both teams through. At the same time, England and Japan meet in Bielefeld, both with a single point, and both with it all to do.

It was the first match between these two sides at U-20 level, and the English seemed eager to stamp their authority on it right from the start. In the early minutes Toni Duggan had two good efforts from distance, one shot off target and one saved by goalkeeper Cecilia Santiago.

Mexico eased their way into the match, looking to use their pace down the wings, but the wet surface made it hard for either side to accomplish much more than long-range shots. Charlyn Corral and Chelsea Weston traded efforts from outside the box, while Duggan and Cuellar continued to be the most consistent threats.

The second half started sluggishly as well with only Santiago’s fine stop from a tricky shot by Jordan Nobbs noteworthy on the hour. But shortly after that, the contest exploded into life after a great piece of work by Corral set up Cuellar whose control of the ball allowed her to shoot home for the only goal of the match.

The pattern after that was waves of English attacks hitting a Mexican defensive wall, Las Aztecas then waiting for a chance to hit a quick counter-attack. Cuellar had a one-on-one with goalkeeper Rebecca Spencer but failed to convert, while England’s best chance was thwarted six minutes from time by a flamboyant Santiago save.

England, who did not concede a goal in qualifying for Germany 2010, ended up with 20 shots to Mexico’s eight, but the North Americans claimed their first win since the 2006 edition and are now within touching distance of a first-ever passage to the knockout rounds of the tournament.