Mexico eliminated from World Cup after win over Saudi Arabia


LUSAIL, Qatar — A durable, eccentric streak that had stretched across decades finally ended on a loud Wednesday night near the Persian Gulf, when Mexico came to life and then sustained that life for some riveting late flurries but then couldn’t quite extend that life.

For the first time since Italy 1990, the 16-team World Cup knockout stage will not include El Tri, who beat Saudi Arabia, 2-1, in a booming Lusail Stadium but wound up in third place in Group C, tied with Poland on four points while one behind in the first tiebreaker, goal differential. Even had the Mexicans held onto the 2-0 lead they carried into stoppage time, they would have come up shy on a further tiebreaker: their lead over Poland in yellow cards.

World Cup bracket and knockout round schedule

In seven consecutive World Cups, from United States 1994 to Russia 2018, Mexico had reached the knockout stages and then lost precisely in the round of 16 — to Bulgaria (on penalties), Germany, the United States, Argentina, Argentina again, the Netherlands and Brazil. Now their usual and astonishing travel contingent had to digest an exit to which most were not accustomed, leaving frowns on seasoned faces and tears on younger ones.

Argentina won the group on six points, with Mexico and Poland on four and next-door neighbor Saudi Arabia, which had made such a dent in this event with its opening upset of Argentina in this same giant Lusail Stadium, taking its noise back across the border with three deeply memorable points.

Wait, is that Australia, waltzing into the World Cup knockout stage?

Mexico began Wednesday night on one point with a goal differential of minus-2, while Poland began on four points and plus-2. Halftimes of both concurrent games, counting Poland-Argentina, stood goalless. Then Mexico — which had not scored all tournament as it drew, 0-0, with Poland and lost, 2-0, to Argentina — began producing wonder.

It scored off a corner in the 47th minute when Henry Martín maneuvered his way between players and struck the ball with his left foot, knocking it in and loosing bedlam especially just behind the goal. Then it scored in the 52nd minute with a free kick of quite some beauty that curled its way into the top right corner.

Now Mexico had a 2-0 lead with the noise somewhere beyond stirring, and when Poland soon fell into a 2-0 deficit down to the south at Stadium 974, Mexico and Poland stood even in points (four) and goal difference (even), while Mexico had gotten seven yellow cards to Poland’s five.

Mexico searched skillfully and frantically for that third goal. Twice it put the ball in the net only to see the offside flag go up, once in the 56th minute when Hirving Lozano drilled in one from behind any suitable defense and once in the 87th, causing a gigantic but brief roar, when substitute Uriel Antuna also got behind all defense for an easy tap-in.

Mexico pushed and pushed, skying one over the goal early in stoppage time, and then their chances collapsed with a rare Saudi counterattack. It wound up in the Mexico box with Hattan Bahebri feeding to Salem al-Dawsari, who slid it easily past Guillermo Ochoa. The whistle blew two minutes later and Mexico, exhausted, had left the party early, especially for itself.

World Cup in Qatar

The latest: France has already secured its spot in the knockout round, and three more nations will join Les Bleus on Wednesday. Follow our live coverage for the latest news, updates and highlights from the World Cup.

USMNT: Star forward Christian Pulisic scored in the first half and the U.S. men’s national team defeated Iran, 1-0, at the World Cup in Qatar. By finishing second in Group B, the United States (1-0-2) earned a round-of-16 meeting Saturday with the Netherlands, which won Group A with a 2-0-1 record.

Tiebreakers and advancement scenarios: The World Cup’s 32 teams have started their third group-stage games, and the scenarios for advancement are now clear.

Perspective: “This moment — his moment — called for something more than finesse or creativity. It may not be brave or courageous, exactly, to charge at a soccer ball in the midst of heavy human traffic, risking personal injury, showing what athletic sacrifice means.” Read Barry Svrluga on Christian Pulisic’s moment on soccer’s biggest stage.

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