Mexico suffered a painful exit from the World Cup on goal difference on Wednesday, despite beating Saudi Arabia 2-1 in a dramatic final to Group C.
Second-half goals from Henry Martin and Luis Chavez secured victory for Mexico, but they finished third behind Poland after Salem Al-Dawsari’s late attack.
Mexico desperately pressed for a third goal in an attempt to improve their goal difference as they were eliminated under FIFA fair play rules.
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Saudi Arabia’s win over Argentina in their opening game was one of the biggest upsets of the World Cup, but they returned to their feet with a 2-0 defeat to Poland in their second game.
Coach Herve Renard urged his players to show that this was not a flash in the pan and write themselves into Saudi football history by reaching knockout rounds for the first time since 1994.
Mexico failed to win their first two group stage matches for the first time in 44 years and knew that victory was essential for a chance to reach the last 16 at an eighth consecutive World Cup.
Mexico boss Gerardo Martino dropped the back five he used in the 2-0 loss to Argentina and deployed Martin to lead the attack.
It reaped almost immediate rewards, but Saudi goalkeeper Mohammed Al-Owais raced out to block Alexis Vega after slipping behind the defense by Hirving Lozano.
Al-Owais, one of the heroes of the 2-1 victory over Argentina, carefully fended off a bouncing cross for a falling Martin and blocked weak attempts from Chavez and Orbelin Pineda.
Mohamed Kanno narrowly missed a free-kick for Saudi Arabia, who saw defender Ali Al-Bulayhi forced off with an injury – adding to their rising casualty list.
Mexico continued to attack unsuccessfully and Ali Al-Hassan almost sent most of the largely Saudi crowd wild late in the first half with a diving header that flashed wide of the far post.
Chavez tested Al-Owais straight after the break and Martin quickly broke the deadlock when he turned in from close range after Cesar Montes’ smart tap at a corner.
Mexico’s second goal came just five minutes later when Chavez sensationally curled a free-kick from 30 yards into the top corner.
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Mexico kept an eye on the scoring between Argentina and Poland and relentlessly pressed for a third goal, with Lozano’s effort disallowed for offside.
Martin bolted to his feet as he had a glorious chance and Chavez was awarded another free-kick which was swerved away by Al-Owais, who also sprawled to the right to claw out a swipe from Lozano.
Uriel Antuna then had another goal disallowed for offside before Al-Dawsari’s late goal ended the drama.
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