Just like that, Mexico is out of the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
Mexico failed to advance past Group C after drawing to Poland 1-1, losing to Argentina 2-0 and beating Saudi Arabia 2-1.
The last result put Mexico even with Poland in points, but the White-Reds had a net-zero goal differential that topped El Tri’s minus-one to go through to the Round of 16.
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It marked the first time in 44 years since Mexico last got eliminated in the group stage of a World Cup, with the previous one occurring in 1978 when it lost all three games.
In what went down as a short-lived run, let’s recap Mexico’s time in Qatar with some winners and losers:
Winner: Luis Chávez
How about that for your first ever international goal?
Luis Chávez, the 26-year-old Pachuca midfielder, scored one of the best goals of the tournament with a long-distance free kick to give Mexico a 2-0 lead over Saudi Arabia. It also marked the nation’s second and last goal in the tournament, but it’s one fans will remember for a long time despite the result.
Also, is the Spanish Twitter account of Bundesliga’s Bayern Leverkusen hinting at something?
Loser: Gerardo “Tata” Martino
Martino’s reign as the manager of Mexico came to a fitting end after he announced his departure from the post.
Despite some early success in his first year in 2019, Martino has failed to build on that momentum time and time again. It was most evident in the build up to this World Cup where his lineups and roster selections often drew heavy criticism for a lack of a coherent plan, and that all came to fruition yet again in Qatar.
It’s back to the drawing board for whoever comes in to replace Martino.
Winner: Guillermo Ochoa
The 37-year-old Ochoa continued to live up to the World Cup hype that has surrounded him in his previous appearances (2014, 2018).
Though he won’t get the chance to deliver any magical moments in the knockout stage, he’ll go home saving a crucial penalty kick attempted by Polish star Robert Lewandowski. If that had gone in, Mexico would’ve lost 1-0, and its hopes to advance would’ve been all but over much sooner.
Ochoa didn’t have much going for him after that as Argentina scored twice on two shots on target while Saudi Arabia scored once also on two shots on target, but at least he provided Mexican fans with another core memory from a tournament that bestowed mostly pain and despair.
It’s the most cliché saying in football: Goals win games. Some teams without a star striker have evaded winning games by scoring very few goals (the United States) while others have either been eliminated or are staring at it head on because of it (Denmark).
Mexico most definitely suffered from this issue. Henry Martín scored one on a poacher’s finish, but El Tri went two games and a half without a single goal. Martino’s squad selection came into play with Rogelio Funes Mori, Raúl Jimenez, Uriel Antuna and Roberto Alvarado all not supplying a significant threat in the attack.
Alexis Vega and Hirving “Chucky” Lozano also went blank, but they at least created chances and gave some glimmers of hope as attacking outlets in the final third.
Winner: Chicharito, Carlos Vela
Having your all-time leading scorer on the pitch surely would’ve solved the above dilemma, right? Javier “Chicharito” Hernández was coming off an 18-goal, two-assist campaign in Major League Soccer with the LA Galaxy while Carlos Vela logged 12 goals and 12 assists en route to an MLS Cup win with LAFC.
Even 21-year-old Santiago Giménez could’ve made a difference with his form for Feyenoord in the Eredivisie this season, where he most notably scored four goals in six group stage games to help his team top Group F.
Yes, Chicharito’s history with Martino and Vela’s discontent with the Mexican football federation are well known and their absence wasn’t surprising, but it just goes to show what can happen if you don’t treat your best players properly – you’ll suffer the consequences.
Imagine the difference those two could’ve made in Qatar.