That'll hurt Mexico forever: Winners, losers & ratings vs Saudi Arabia as El Tri fall one goal short of knockout stage

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Hector Moreno post-match Mexico Saudi Arabia World Cup 2022
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Mexico defeated Saudi Arabia 2-1 on Wednesday, but it wasn't enough to fend off World Cup elimination

Hirving Lozano sat glum and alone in the dugout when the match ended, a training bib draped over his head. Cesar Montes rested on his back in the middle of the pitch, hands covering his eyes. Edson Alvarez wept in a post-match TV interview.

Heartbreak. Complete and utter heartbreak.

Mexico would have felt deep pain regardless of the elimination method, but this particular way of going out of the World Cup felt extra cruel.

After squandering each and every chance given to them in the first two games of the group stage, El Tri finally threatened in the attack. They scored twice in the second half to inspire hope, but couldn't get the third that would have given them a tiebreaker advantage over Poland in Group C.

A 2-1 win over Saudi Arabia that exhilarated their fans most of the way was ultimately irrelevant.

Manager Gerardo "Tata" Martino's tenure is likely over, and it will be seen as a failure. Despite the fight back, despite the hope, the 2022 World Cup was a grand disappointment for El Tri, who expected to be around a lot longer than this.

This is their first group stage exit since 1978.

It's the hope that kills you, they say, and, at Lusail Stadium on Wednesday night, Mexico's World Cup dreams were killed in painful fashion.

  1. The Winners
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    The Winners

    The neutral:

    What drama that was.

    This is what the World Cup is about, isn’t it? Pure, absolute chaos. Permutations and calculations galore.

    It was edge-of-your-seat stuff, really. At Lusail Stadium, you could hear the crowd simmer when news of Argentina’s goals against Poland reached those in attendance. It was no doubt the same at Stadium 974.

    For about 30 minutes, it all lay in the balance with everything from goals to yellow cards coming into play. 

    One more Mexico goal would have been enough. It never came, which will serve as a gut punch to fans of El Tri. But, for anyone watching without a horse in the race, there was no way to take your eyes off of it.

    The drama of the World Cup, everyone. Can you beat it?

    Luis Chavez:

    Good God what a goal.

    You’ll see few better, especially when you take the circumstances into account. To hit that ball from that far into the goal like that? Goodness gracious.

    As Chavez lined up from well past 30 yards, few could have predicted what he would do. How could you? How could you expect a free-kick so audacious?

    It was a deserved moment in the sun for Chavez, who has been in fantastic form dating back to the Liga MX playoffs. And that was his first-ever senior international goal. Can you imagine a better one?

    It as all for nothing, ultimately, as Mexico couldn't get the result needed to advance. However, Chavez did well for himself in Qatar. European clubs, take notice. Mexico have quite a player on their hands.


    In the end, the biggest benefactor of the result at Lusail Stadium was the team on the losing end at Stadium 974.

    Poland survived by the skin of their teeth, barely edging Mexico on goal difference.

    Robert Lewandowski and Co. have moved on at Mexico's expense as El Tri will look back at the missed opportunities and unrealised potential of it all after losing out by the slimmest of margins.

  2. The Losers
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    The Losers

    Gerardo Martino:

    As the final whistle blew, an orange drink was hurled in the direction of Gerardo Martino. And so his tenure moved toward what is seemingly an inevitable end clouded in failure.

    It's wild to think back to the optimism that came with his hiring in 2019. The former Argentina and Barcelona coach was fresh off an MLS title. He'd managed Lionel Messi and now he was taking on El Tri.

    Ironically, it was Messi who helped doom Martino as his Mexico side failed to escape their group for the first time in more than 40 years. Mexico will look back on the Argentina loss perhaps most of all wondering what could have been.

    The fans turned on Martino long before Wednesday. His roster selections, tactics and overall relationship with the public soured prior to the squad's arrival in Qatar. But he had a chance to salvage it all with a strong performance at the World Cup.

    It didn't happen.

    Saudi Arabia:

    Talk about a missed opportunity…

    After beating Argentina in their opener, Saudi Arabia had it in the palms of their hands. A point, any sort of points, against Poland or Mexico could have sent them through. They couldn’t find it. 

    Saudi Arabia squandered such an opportunity to stun the world by advancing. Few would have pegged them to do so, but they had their chance, didn’t they?

    Their crowd support was incredible as their fans went toe-to-toe with El Tri's, but, from the moment Chavez’s Golazo hit the back of the net, they’d accepted their fate. They rose again briefly for Salem Al-Dawsari's goal, but it was too late.

    A tough one to take for a team that provided one of the best upsets in tournament history. It’s a shame they couldn’t build on it to turn it into something bigger. They captured lightning in a bottle for just that one game against Argentina, but, as they say, lightning doesn't strike twice.

  3. Mexico ratings: Defense
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    Mexico ratings: Defense

    Guillermo Ochoa (6/10):

    Didn't have to do much and, realistically, the goal he conceded didn't matter.

    Jesus Gallardo (7/10):

    One of Mexico's best players at this tournament. Was good once again as he got forward well.

    Hector Moreno (6/10):

    Solid enough as he mostly dealt with infrequent Saudi Arabia counters.

    Cesar Montes (7/10):

    Assisted the opening goal with a fantastic flick off his heel and was solid at the back.

    Jorge Sanchez (7/10):

    Similar to Gallardo, got forward well as El Tri pushed for goals

  4. Midfield
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    Edson Alvarez (6/10):

    A physical performance that bordered on careless. Was withdrawn late as Mexico needed more attackers.

    Luis Chavez (8/10):

    An absolutely electric goal from a player who certainly raised his profile in Qatar despite his team's failings.

  5. Attack
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    Alexis Vega (6/10):

    Will regret not burying his chance early. Missing that one-on-one overshadowed the rest of his game.

    Orbelin Pineda (7/10):

    Added a bit of creativity to what had been a totally static El Tri attack through two games.

    Hirving Lozano (8/10):

    Back to his best. A glimpse into how good he can be, even if the goal never came.

    Henry Martin (7/10):

    Got his goal, but could have had a few more. Finally some production from a striker, though, even if it was too late.

  6. Subs & Manager
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    Subs & Manager

    Uriel Antuna (7/10)

    Was very active after coming on and seemingly scored the goal that would do it for El Tri, only for it to be ruled offside.

    Raul Jimenez (6/10)

    What a different tournament this could have been if the Wolves star was healthy.

    Carlos Alberto Rodriguez (6/10)

    Did little after replacing Pineda.

    Rogelio Funes Mori (N/A)

    A last-gasp substitute that never quite got a chance.

    Kevin Alvarez (N/A)

    Played the final few minutes after replacing Sanchez.

    Gerardo Martino (6/10):

    For this game, he just about got everything right, switching up his tactics to get goals, but he'll look back on the first two games with regret as Mexico crashed out.