World Cup: Mexico beats Saudi Arabia but fails to advance out of group stage

Mexico's Henry Martin celebrates after scoring the opening goal against Saudi Arabia.
(Luca Bruno / Associated Press)

Mexico fails to advance out of the group stage for the first time since 1978 despite 2-1 win on Wednesday. By virtue of goal differential, Poland reaches the Round of 16.

Mexico gives up late goal, loses tiebreaker to Poland

Mexico 2, Saudi Arabia 1 — FINAL
Argentina 2, Poland 0 — FINAL

At least it didn’t come down to yellow cards.

Mexico, desperately pressing for a third goal, gave up a goal by Salem Al-Dawsari in stoppage time to slice their advantage to 2-1:

This, combined with Argentina’s win over Poland, left Poland and Mexico with four points. But Poland advances as the second team out of the group thanks to goal differential (Poland was even, El Tri at minus-one). Had both Mexico and Poland finished with an even goal differential, the next tiebreaker would have been yellow cards accumulated. Poland would’ve advanced with fewer yellow cards than Mexico.

Prior to Saudi Arabia’s goal, Mexico had plenty of chances to get the third goal they needed to advance:

Today’s results also ensures that Mexico will not advance past the group stage for the first time since 1978. Mexico did not participate in the World Cup in 1982 and 1990, but in every other competition, El Tri had reached at least the Round of 16, including a run to the quarterfinals in 1986 as the host nation.


Argentina beats Poland 2-0

Argentina's Nicolas Tagliafico, left, misses an opportunity to score in front of Poland goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny .
(Pavel Golovkin / Associated Press)

Argentina 2, Poland 0 ... final

Argentina wins Group C. At this point, Poland will also advance to the knockout round because of a yellow card tiebreaker over Mexico, but Mexico can take that spot with a goal in the closing minutes of its game against Saudi Arabia.

Argentina’s Lautaro Martínez nearly helped boost Mexico into the knockout round but his breakaway shot went wide left in the 86th minute.

Argentina almost gave Mexico another lifeline in stoppage time.


Mexico still looking for that elusive third goal

Mexico 2, Saudi Arabia 0 — after 80 minutes
Argentina 2, Poland 0 — after 80 minutes

Third goal’s the charm?

Mexico continues to seek a third goal that would ensure passage to the Round of 16. El Tri has stayed aggressive throughout the second half:

If both scores hold, Argentina would win the group and Poland would advance as the second team from Group C. A third goal by Argentina would also do the trick for El Tri, but for the moment it remains in Mexico’s hands if it can find a third score.


Argentina takes 2-0 lead over Poland

Argentina's Julian Alvarez, left, is embraced by teammate Enzo Fernandez (24) after scoring a goal against Poland.
(Natacha Pisarenko / Associated Press)

Argentina 2, Poland 0 ...67th minute
Julián Álvarez gives Argentina a 2-0 lead on an assist by Enzo Fernández in the 67th minute. As it stands right now, Poland would still advance to the knockout round over Mexico, which is up 2-0 on Saudi Arabia, because of a yellow card tiebreaker (Mexico has two more than Poland). Lionel Messi has had two near-miss shots since Álvarez’s goal that would have tipped the scale in Mexico’s favor.


Luis Chavez extends Mexico’s lead

Mexico's Luis Chavez celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal against Saudi Arabia.
(Julio Cortez / Associated Press)

Mexico 2, Saudi Arabia 0 — after 55 minutes
Argentina 1, Poland 0 — after 55 minutes

Mexico has suddenly found its offense.

Needing to win by at least 3-0 after Argentina took the lead early in the second half of its Group C match, El Tri found a second goal off a magnificent free kick by Luis Chavez in the 52nd minute:


Argentina takes the lead over Poland

Argentina 1, Poland 0 ... 47th minute
Argentina’s Alexis Mac Allister took a cross from Nahuel Molina from the center of the box and planted it into the left corner past diving Poland goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny in the 47th minute.


Mexico breaks through on goal by Henry Martin

Mexico 1, Saudi Arabia 0 — after 50 minutes
Argentina 1, Poland 0 — after 50 minutes

The scoreless drought is finally over — but Mexico needs much more offense.

Henry Martin knocked one in off a corner kick as El Tri, knocking on the door all match long, finally broke through to take the lead in the 47th minute:

With Argentina also taking a lead early in the second half, Mexico needs to win at least 3-0 to have any chance of reaching the Round of 16.


Scoreless all the way around in Group C matches at halftime

Mexico 0, Saudi Arabia 0 — halftime
Argentina 0, Poland 0 — halftime

Mexico appeared to dominate the first half of play against Saudi Arabia, and the statistics bear that out. El Tri had 68 percent of possession and outshot the Saudis 11-4 (with a 3-1 edge in shots on goal).

But Saudi Arabia did threaten in stoppage time, though to no avail:


Lionel Messi misses penalty kick in Argentina-Poland match

Mexico 0, Saudi Arabia 0 — after 40 minutes
Argentina 0, Poland 0 — after 40 minutes

Meanwhile, in the other Group C match... Lionel Messi had an opportunity to put Argentina ahead against Poland with a penalty kick, but Poland’s goalkeeper, Wojciech Szczęsny, dived to his left and denied Messi:

Still scoreless in both matches as we approach halftime.


Mexico continues to chase that elusive goal

Saudi Arabia's Riyadh Sharahili, center left, and Mexico's Henry Martin vie for the ball.
(Julio Cortez / Associated Press)

Mexico 0, Saudi Arabia 0 — after 36 minutes
Argentina 0, Poland 0 — after 36 minutes

Mexico continues to get scoring chances but remain thwarted to this point. Have we mentioned El Tri hasn’t scored since the 2018 World Cup? Chucky Lozano crossed this ball into the box in the 27th minute, but Orbelin Pineda couldn’t quite finish:

We remain scoreless in both Group C matches.


Saudi Arabia nearly breaks the deadlock as things start to get physical

Saudi Arabia's Mohamed Kanno, left, and Mexico's Luis Chavez challenge for the bal.
Saudi Arabia’s Mohamed Kanno, left, and Mexico’s Luis Chavez challenge for the ball.
(Moises Castillo / Associated Press)

Mexico 0, Saudi Arabia 0 — after 20 minutes
Argentina 0, Poland 0 — after 20 minutes

Saudi Arabia, which is also looking to advance with a win, nearly took the lead in the 13th minute but Mohamed Kanno sailed his free kick over the crossbar:

Minutes later, Edson Alvarez received a yellow card on this tackle on Hassan Altambakti:


Mexico has an early chance to take the lead

Mexico 0, Saudi Arabia 0 — after 12 minutes
Argentina 0, Poland 0 — after 12 minutes

It took only three minutes for Mexico to threaten thanks to Alexis Vega, but Saudi Arabia goalkeeper Mohammed Al-Owais was up to the task:

The match remains scoreless and Mexico remains without a goal in this World Cup.


We are underway in a must-win situation for Mexico

Mexico 0, Saudi Arabia 0
Argentina 0, Poland 0

The anthems have been played, and the final Group C matches are underway. Mexico needs a win to have any chance of advancing to the knockout stage. If El Tri manages a win and Poland beats Argentina, Mexico goes through as the second-place team in the group while Poland wins the group.

If Argentina beats Poland, however, Mexico would need to win by multiple goals to edge out Poland on goal differential for the second group berth — a tall order considering El Tri’s offensive struggles (no goals in 384 consecutive minutes dating to the second group stage match in the 2018 World Cup).


Mexico’s starting lineup announced

Mexico’s lineup is out, and as would be expected with El Tri in a must-win situation, some tinkering to the starting lineup after a more defensive formation against Argentina.

Notably, Henry Martin joins Alexis Vega and Chucky Lozano as a third forward. Rest of the lineup below:


World Cup: Lionel Messi stars to revive Argentina’s hopes, all but dash Mexico’s

DOHA, Qatar — Lionel Messi has spent his career trying to dribble out from under Diego Maradona’s sizable shadow.

Messi has scored more goals, won more titles, played in more World Cups and been arrested fewer times than Maradona. But Maradona won a World Cup, the one prize Messi is lacking.

So Saturday, with his window of opportunity for matching that rapidly closing, Messi once again found magic in his powerful left foot, scoring in the 64th minute to start Argentina to a 2-0 victory over Mexico that revived his team’s chances of getting out of the group stage while all but dashing Mexico’s.

“It was a weight off our shoulders,” Messi said.

A loss probably would have seen Argentina eliminated in the first round of a World Cup for the first time in six decades. And no one felt that burden more than Messi who, even in Qatar, couldn’t escape the specter of Maradona.

Friday was the second anniversary of Maradona’s death, and thousands of Argentine fans gathered in Doha’s ancient Souq Waqif to remember him. Another makeshift shrine emerged Saturday outside Lusail Iconic Stadium, where “Life is Life” — unofficially known as the Maradona song — played over the stadium’s PA system shortly before kickoff.

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Watch: Mexico fans take over Qatar

L.A. Times en Español reporters Eduard Cauich and Jad El Reda caught up with rowdy Mexico fans, who flocked to Qatar and celebrated even though they knew El Tri would likely struggle through the group stage.


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DOHA, Qatar — If someone were to put together a highlight reel of Mexico’s performances in the last three World Cups, it would include a lot of footage of goalkeeper Memo Ochoa.

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“When we need Memo, he always shows up,” defender Jorge Sanchez said.

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Mexico headed for a lot of soul-searching

Mexico coach Tata Martino calls out to his players during a World Cup loss to Argentina on Saturday.
(Jorge Saenz / Associated Press)

Mexico came to Qatar looking for the quinto partido, the fifth World Cup game, which it hasn’t played in since 1986. It’s likely to head home Thursday after just tres partidos for the first time since 1978, ending a streak of eight World Cups in which Mexico advanced out of group play.

Two games into this tournament Mexico has nothing to show for its participation. It is last in its four-country group and is the only team without a win or a goal. In fact, Mexico hasn’t scored in the World Cup in 384 consecutive minutes dating to the second game of group play in Russia. The goals in that game came from Carlos Vela and Javier “Chicharito” Hernández, neither of whom was invited to Qatar.

Manager Tata Martino’s contract expires at the end of the year and his fate has been known for some time, which makes him a lame-duck manager. Yom de Luisa, who took over as president of the Mexican soccer federation after the last World Cup, is certain to go as well since this arguably has been the most disastrous year for Mexican soccer in recent memory.

Not only will the men’s team likely make its earliest World Cup exit in four decades, but also the women’s team failed to qualify for next summer’s Women’s World Cup and the 2024 Paris Olympics despite hosting the qualifying tournament. The men’s U23 team, the bronze medalist in Tokyo, failed to qualify for its Olympic tournament for the first time since 2008.

Not renewing the contracts of Martino and De Luisa would complete a housecleaning that began in July when De Luisa fired Ignacio Hierro, the director of national teams, and U20 coach Luis Perez and forced the resignation of sporting director Gerardo Torrado. He also fired most of the top coaches on the women’s side, including senior national team manager Monica Vergara.

But all that came too late and Mexico’s recent struggles do not bode well for the program with less than four years to prepare for the next World Cup, which it will host along with the U.S. and Canada. While the Americans and Canadians brought talented young teams to Qatar to gain experience and build chemistry for 2026, Martino largely stuck with the old guard: El Tri had the second-oldest team at the last World Cup in Russia and it has the second-oldest team in Qatar.

Injuries to key players such as Raúl Jiménez and Jesús Corona hurt. But other teams, including France and Germany, are missing more players than Mexico and their depth allowed them to fill in. Mexico has no depth and appears to have few hotshot prospects in the pipeline.

Mexico still has a mathematical chance of advancing in Qatar but it’s the longest of long shots. El Tri would have to beat Saudi Arabia in its final game — ask Argentina how easy that is — and would need Poland beat Argentina and would have to make up a huge goal differential to Argentina in the process.

For a team whose last World Cup goal came 52 months ago, the odds of all that happening aren’t good.

“As long as there’s a chance, we need to try,” Martino said. “Is it difficult? Yes.”

Added midfielder Roberto Alvarado: “There is still a little hope. We have to lift our heads for this last game and give everything on the field.”


The Times podcast: Mexico’s unique, binational soccer fans

Right now, the eyes of much of the world is on the FIFA World Cup in Qatar as 32 teams fight for national pride. One team is Mexico, whose unique fanbase sets it apart from the world. With loyalties to both Mexico and the United States, it’s a representation of resilience, controversy and so much more.

Today, we examine the phenomenon.

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“Here it comes, here it comes, here it comes,“ Andrés Cantor tells his audience in Spanish.

It isn’t until the ball goes into the net that he unleashes the call that has made him one of the most popular — and parodied — announcers in U.S. sports history.

Gooooooooooooooooooolllllllll!!!!,” he screams, a lung-clearing bellow that can last 20 seconds or more and, after a pause for breath, will be repeated by another that lasts even longer.

Even if you’ve never heard Cantor’s name, you’ve heard his voice — if not on Telemundo or his Fútbol de Primera radio network, where he calls more than 120 games a year, then in commercials for Geico, Volkswagen and Pepsi, on an episode of “The Simpsons,” or in the 2014 Disney feature “Muppets Most Wanted.”

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“Very happy to be achieving a dream that I set for myself from a very young age,” he said in Spanish.

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