As Mexico fell behind by one goal, two goals and then three in its World Cup game against Sweden on Wednesday, Mexico fans across the world switched their television channels to another game that had suddenly become much more important.
With a loss to Sweden all but guaranteed, Mexico’s future in the tournament depended on South Korea beating Germany, or at least hold the reigning World Cup champion to a tie.
“Korea, Korea,” Mexican fans chanted in cantinas, plazas and anywhere else screens had been erected to broadcast the game. Never mind that only days before the same fans had been cheering against Korea when Mexico won 2-1.
In the end, Korea came through for Mexico, not just holding off Germany, but scoring twice in second-half added time. Mexican fans cheered wildly when Kim Young-gwon fired off the first goal two minutes into extra time.
The celebration that followed was one for the books.
Outside the stadium in Russia, Mexican fans dressed in sombreros and native garb circled several Korean fans and then lifted one triumphantly into the air. In Mexico City, fans rushed from the iconic Angel of Independence monument, where victories are traditionally celebrated, to the Korean embassy, where they sang songs and danced with Korean diplomats. In Los Angeles, Mexican fans vowed to eat Korean barbecue that evening as a token of thanks.
Social media was awash with memes celebrating Mexico’s affinity for their newfound allies, including a flag that merged Korea’s blue and red circle with Mexico’s red, white and green.