Mixed emotions for relieved Mexico
El Tri finished second in Group F
Reach round of 16 for seventh FIFA World Cup™ running
Take on Brazil in Samara on 2 July
By Martin Langer with Mexico
For Mexico, the situation looked dire. Having failed to hit the heights of their previous two matches in Group F, they found themselves trailing 3-0 to Sweden with the clock ticking down.
Though their fans continued to cheer the side on from the stands, they did so without their usual enthusiasm. Mexico had conceded too many goals for that. No longer in control of their own destiny, El Tri were gripped by the very real fear that they were heading out of the tournament.
When the final whistle sounded, and as the Swedes celebrated their safe passage into the last 16, the Mexico players walked around in a state of shock.
And then came the news nobody had dared hope for from the day’s other game: Korea Republic had scored against the mighty Germany. It was news greeted with murmur at first, a murmur that soon became a cry of celebration, one that rang around the Ekaterinburg Arena.
In unexpectedly flooring the reigning world champions, the South Koreans drew a collective sigh of relief from a grateful Mexico.
Pausing for thought The Tri players stayed on the pitch for a while to thank their fans and come to terms with it all. When they finally made their way to the dressing room, their faces wore a look of disappointment mixed with relief.
“We’ve gone through, which is what matters most,” said the defender Carlos Salcedo. “It’s not how we wanted to do it, of course, but we’ve achieved our first objective, which was to make the second round.”
In the view of midfielder Marco Fabian, the 3-0 defeat should serve as a lesson: “We have to look very closely at what went wrong, because it can’t happen again. If we play like that again, then we’ll be going home earlier than we wanted to.”
While the Mexico fans left the stadium chanting: “Korea! Korea!”, the players made their exit intent on burying memories of the loss to the Swedes there and then.
Looking ahead “It’s put a real dampener on things, obviously,” added Salcedo. “We knew that when we beat Germany it didn’t make us the best, just as this result doesn’t make us the worst. We’ve always had that balanced approach to things and it’s helped us a lot.”
A balanced perspective and keeping a level head are always essential when things get tough, which is why Salcedo believes the loss to Sweden should not undo all the good things Mexico did in their previous matches: “We know what we’re doing right. We know our strong points and that will surely stand us in good stead for our next match.”
“We need to put this behind us,” said Fabian unequivocally. “We’ve spent the World Cup thinking about our next rivals at the end of every game, and we’ve got even more good reason to do that again this time. Obviously we need to sort a few things out, but we have to be focused 100 per cent on the next team we’re facing.”
And that team just happens to be Brazil.
Having moved from disappointment to relief, Mexico now need to find belief and the conviction that they can upset the five-time world champions. Given everything that has been happening at Russia 2018, who would dare write off Juan Carlos Osorio’s charges?