Saudi Arabia 1 – 2 Mexico

Mexico dramatically missed out on the World Cup knockout stage despite a spirited 2-1 victory over Saudi Arabia, as Poland progressed as Group C runners-up on superior goal difference.

In a thrilling Group C final at Lusail Stadium, Henry Martin’s opener (47) and Luis Chavez’ spectacular free-kick (52), combined with Argentina’s 2-0 victory over Poland, left Mexico with three minutes of stoppage time to find the third goal needed to avoid leaving the group due to a lower fair play points total.

Saudi Arabia’s hopes of securing the victory needed to seal their progress into the last 16 did not take off but, out of nowhere, Salem Al-Dawsari struck in stoppage time to leave Mexico ahead to score two more goals, but ending their chances of overtaking Poland.

The result means Group C winners Argentina take on Australia on Saturday and runners-up Poland take on France in the round of 16 on Sunday, as Mexico ponder what might have given them too much to do afterwards. announcement of his arrival. tournament in the last group game.

World Cup Group C final draw

Player ratings

Saudi Arabia: Al-Owais (6), Tambakti (5), Al-Amri (5), Al-Bulayhi (5), Al-Ghanam (6), Al-Hassan (5), Kanno (5), Abdulhamid (5), Al-Buraikan (5), Al-Shehri (5), Al-Dawsari (6).

Subtitles: Madu (5), Al-Aboud (5), Sharahili (6), Bahebri (n/a).

Mexico: Ochoa (6), Sanchez (6), Montes (6), Moreno (6), Gallardo (6), Edson Alvarez (6), Chavez (8), Lozano (6), Pineda (7), Vega (6) , Martin (8).

Subtitles: Rodriguez (5), Jimenez (5), Funes Mori (n/a), Antuna (6), Kevin Alvarez (n/a).

Player of the game: Louis Chavez

The highlights of the game…

  • 3 mins: Mohammed Al-Owais leaves his line to stifle Alexis Vega’s shot as Mexico denied the opener
  • 45+6 minutes: Ali Al-Hassan leads Saudi Arabia’s best chance in stoppage time
  • 47 mins: Henry Martin locks in a shot near the post from a corner to put Mexico ahead
  • 52 mins: Luis Chavez’ sensational free-kick doubles Mexico’s lead
  • 90+5 mins: Salem Al-Dawsari ends Mexico hopes with late consolation

How Mexico were denied in a thrilling Group C final

Orbelin Pineda does not score with a diving header

The drama and tension to come was summed up by the national anthems, where the impassioned rendition of the majority Saudi crowd was matched by the Mexican contingent. That nearly sent Mexico into the lead, but Alexis Vega’s third-minute goal was brilliantly stifled by Saudi goalkeeper Mohammed Al-Owais.

Team News

  • Hassan Tambakti, Saud Abdulhamid and Ali Al-Hassan started as Saudi Arabia made three substitutions after the loss to Poland.
  • Jorge Sanchez, Edson Alvarez, Orbelin Pineda and Henry Martin returned as Mexico made four changes to the squad beaten by Argentina.

Mohamed Kanno struck from a tight angle and Saudi captain Salem Al-Dawsari whistled a free-kick over the bar 12 minutes before the frantic start set in and Mexico began to master the game .

Abdulelah Al Amri and Hassan Altambakti joined forces to block Oberlin Pineda’s counter midway through half-time before the Mexican playmaker’s diving header was brilliantly blocked by Sultan Al Ghanam moments later.

Henry Martin celebrates after opening the scoring for Mexico against Saudi Arabia
Henry Martin celebrates after opening the scoring for Mexico against Saudi Arabia

Ali Al-Hassan nodded wide in stoppage time for Saudi Arabia but the half belonged to the much improved Mexicans, who took just two minutes to assert their authority after the break when Henry Martin converted Cesar Montes’ film from a corner. to give them head.

Mexico’s first goal of the tournament unleashed chains, and a second came five minutes later, Chavez’ sensational long-range free-kick doubling their advantage to move them within a goal of nullifying the advantage of the difference of goals for Poland.

Luis Chavez celebrates after his free kick gave Mexico a 2-0 lead over Saudi Arabia
Luis Chavez celebrates after his free kick gave Mexico a 2-0 lead over Saudi Arabia

News of Argentina’s second goal against Poland brought Mexico level with the Poles on points and goal difference, but their lower fair play points tally left them looking for a another goal to qualify.

After Martin saw an effort ruled out for offside, the forward volleyed a glorious volley and Chavez was denied a dramatic second free-kick by diving Al-Owais before Pineda whistled a shot on target at a quarter end time.

Uriel Antuna thought he had scored the goal to send Mexico two minutes from time, only to have his effort ruled out for offside. News of Argentina’s victory leaked out but with a crucial third goal missing, Mexico’s desperation left them exposed defensively and Al-Dawsari surged to extinguish their hopes.

Salem Al-Dawsari scores a consolation goal for Saudi Arabia against Mexico
Salem Al-Dawsari scores a consolation goal for Saudi Arabia against Mexico

Martino: My contract expired at the final whistle

After the game, Gerardo Martino, Mexico coach confirmed his reign was over after his side exited the tournament.

Former Barcelona boss Martino, who has been in charge of Mexico since January 2019, said: “The contract expired with the final whistle and there is nothing else to do.

“I am the man responsible for the frustration and disappointment.

“It’s a real sadness and I take full responsibility for this huge failure.”

“We deserved to lose more”

Saudi Arabia head coach Hervé Renard said: “The result does not reflect the reality of the match, because we deserved to lose by more goals without Al-Owais. He saved us in the third minute and we couldn’t handle Mexico’s intensity and enthusiasm in the duels.

“We suffered physically and we had to adapt to defender Ali Al-Bulaihi’s injury. Mexico were the better team and we knew they would play aggressively in order to score more goals to qualify for the next round.

“The squad includes 26 players, and we have to make do with what we have. Yes, injuries have affected us, but that’s no excuse. Against Poland we were the better team, but we weren’t effective in the last third, but today we played badly.”

“We haven’t even reached the fourth game”

Mexican striker Luis Chavez said: “We are very frustrated. After the first two games, we had a lot to do and this last one was not enough for us.

“We didn’t have any goals and we lacked focus at the back today and that ended up leaving us out.

“We’ll see what happens next, those of us who have to leave this national team, it can’t happen in Mexico. We had set ourselves the target for the fifth game and we didn’t even reach the fourth.

Group stage heartbreak for Mexico – Opta stats

  • Mexico were knocked out in the World Cup group stage for the first time since 1978 – they had progressed from the group stages in each of their previous eight appearances.
  • Saudi Arabia were eliminated in the group stage for the fifth time in six World Cup appearances (1998, 2002, 2006, 2018 and 2022). The exception was in 1994 when they reached the knockout stages.
  • Mexican Henry Martin scored his country’s first goal at the 2022 World Cup – it was their 29th goal at the tournament.
  • Saudi Arabia received 14 yellow cards in the 2022 World Cup group stage, a new record for a team in a single group stage in World Cup history.


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