Uruguay finished top of Group A thanks to a hard-fought 1-0 win over Mexico at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Rustenburg, but the defeat was ultimately sufficient for El Tri to join their conquerors in the Round of 16.
Joint-leaders Uruguay and Mexico went into their final group match safe in the knowledge that a draw would be enough for both of them to reach the knockout phase. But it was a must-win for the Mexicans if they were to avoid a likely encounter with the formidable Argentinians in the last 16. Both coaches opted for a 4-3-3 formation, with the only one notable change being veteran Mexico forward Cuauhtemoc Blanco starting for the first time in place of the injured Carlos Vela.
The stadium was filled with a large contingent of El Tri supporters hours before the kick-off, and the Mexicans soon began to find their rhythm with the the waves of 'ole' coming from the stands. However, it was the Uruguayans who had the first attack of note. Luis Suarez missed a glorious chance to put his side ahead on five minutes, when the Ajax marksman sent his shot just wide of the left post after collecting a loose ball from a defensive mistake from Hector Moreno.
Mexico fought back midway through the first half, with Andres Guardado hitting the crossbar with an audacious left-foot drive from 30 yards. Guardado and Giovani dos Santos then managed to find space on the left, but were unable to create clear-cut chances to break down one of the meanest defences in the competition. With half-time approaching, Carlos Salcido tried his luck from distance but the ball sailed well over the bar.
Just as the first half seemed to be ending goalless, La Celeste seized their opportunity on 43 minutes. Edinson Cavani broke down the right channel to send a looping cross to the far post, where Suarez headed home from close range to make it 1-0.
With South Africa leading France 2-0 at the interval in Bloemfontein, Mexico could not afford to concede more goals. But the Uruguayans surged forward right after the break, with Diego Lugano’s point-blank header off a Diego Forlan free-kick forcing a brilliant save from Oscar Perez. At the opposite end, substitute Pablo Barrera sent an inviting cross from the right, only for Francisco Rodriguez to send a glancing header just wide of Fernando Muslera’s goal.
Although Mexico put the pressure on by bringing Javier Hernandez on for Blanco after the hour mark, Uruguay's defence looked even more impenetrable as time wore on. And despite enjoying more possession of the ball, Mexico failed to find a way through as Uruguay completed a hat-trick of clean sheets for the first time in their FIFA World Cup™ history.