An 86th minute header from substitute Ulises Jaimes was enough to see Mexico beat Sweden 1-0 in Al Ain in their final Group F contest at the FIFA U-17 World Cup in UAE, a result which sees them finish second, behind Nigeria, in the section and thus qualify for the Round of 16. Sweden, for their part, finish with four points, enough to also qualify as one of the best third-place finishers.
It was the first meeting between the two teams in the tournament’s history, and the first-half played out a little bit like a first date at the Khalifa Bin Zayed Stadium. Both the Swedes and the Mexicans were nervous and unwilling to gamble much in attack. Mexico, with three points from two matches, were a little keener to push forward in the opening period, but only just.
The North Americans had two half-chances inside the first ten minutes, but neither one of them had Sweden’s goalkeeper Sixten Mohlin looking particularly nervous. They kept up the pressure and after 23 minutes, they had their best chance. Linus Wahlqvist made a huge mistake in the centre of defence and gifted the ball to Victor Zuniga – one of three recognised strikers in the Mexican starting XI. He raced in alone on goal, but his shot was well saved by Mohlin.
Seven minutes later, on the hour mark, the Swedes had their only real chance of the half when Gustav Engvall tried a speculative shot form the edge of the box that was charged down by a Mexican defender and blocked wide.
The Mexicans continued to hunt the goal that would guarantee their progress in the second half, but they weren’t willing to throw caution to the wind. In the 70th minute, Alejandro Diaz looked like he would finally break the deadlock, but his deflected shot from the edge of the area was somehow kept out by the sprawling Swede Mohlin, who pulled off a wonderful save.
With ten minutes to go, Mexico’s substitute Marco Granados’s header was kept out again by Mohlin. And just when it looked like the game would end goalless, the Mexicans struck a lethal blow. A corner-kick was whipped in in the 86th minute and substitute Ulises Jaimes headed into the side netting. The result, though not ideal for Sweden, triggered a joint-celebration on the pitch as both sides go through, along with Nigeria, from Group F. Iraq head for home with zero points from their three games.