Mexico is on life support after a disappointing 2-0 loss to Argentina and coach Gerardo Martino is deservedly taking the brunt of the blame. Yet the less said about that game, the better.
El Tri is in last place in Group C and has yet to score a goal in two games. That’s not a great statistic considering Mexico must score against Saudi Arabia on Wednesday if “Tata” & Co. have any hopes of advancing to the knockout round.
Not only must Mexico win, but they must get help in the other group match that will take place at the same time.
But before worrying out what results in the Poland-Argentina game would be helpful to El Tri, Mexico must find a way to score. And that might require coach Martino to take some risks in his line-up choices, an inclination the embattled coach has not demonstrated in his nearly four years on the job.
El Tri in the doldrums
You have to go back 44 years to find a worse start to a World Cup for Mexico. And Argentina 1978 was a particularly horrific tournament for Team Azteca.
El Tri followed up a 3-1 loss to Tunisia with a 6-0 pratfall against West Germany before concluding with a 3-1 loss to Poland, a 0-0-3 record and a 2-12 goal differential.
Mexico did not qualify for Spain 1982, then kicked off the 1986 Cup it hosted with a win over Belgium and a draw against Paraguay while going on to top its group.
El Tri was banned from the 1990 World Cup in Italy (for using ove-rage players in the Under-20 World Cup) but has advanced out of the group stage in every tournament since.
Mexico opened USA 1994 with a loss and a win but topped its group (which included Italy). In France 1998, El Tri started with a win and a draw. In Korea/Japan 2002, El Tri defeated Croatia and Ecuador before a tie against Italy to win its group.
Germany 2006 saw Mexico with 4 points after its first two group stage matches, and the same was true in South Africa 2010 and Brazil 2014. El Tri did even better in Russia 2018, winning its first two games including the historic 1-0 victory over defending champion Germany.
So 1 point and 0 goals qualifies as a very poor performance for the world’s 13th-ranked team.
Here’s what has to happen for Mexico
After two rounds, Group C looks like this: Poland 4 points, Saudi Arabia 3 points, Argentina 3 points, El Tri 1 point.
First off, Mexico must defeat Saudi Arabia. Such a result will lift El Tri to 4 points, surpassing and eliminating the Saudis.
If Poland wins (an unlikely result, but the way things have gone in Qatar thus far, not out of the question), then Poland (6 points) wins the group and Mexico finishes second.
The other two scenarios involve tiebreakers which are as follows:
- Superior goal difference in all group matches
- Greatest number of goals scored in all group matches
- Head-to-head result
If Argentina and Mexico win, then Mexico and Poland would each have 4 points. As such, the combined results would have to add up to at least a 4-goal difference in favor of El Tri (currently at a –2 while Poland has a +2).
In the event that Mexico wins just 1-0, then Argentina must win by more than 3 goals because Poland has 2 goals scored and they’d advance by virtue of having scored more goals.
A Poland-Argentina draw would require Mexico to defeat Saudi Arabia by at least 4 goals because Argentina would have the same 4 points as El Tri and would end with a +1. But since the South Americans have scored 3 goals to this point, Mexico would have to surpass Argentina’s goal count to advance, particularly if there are goals in the Argentina-Poland game.
Thus … Mexico fans must adopt the positive attitude of Lloyd Christmas: “So, you’re telling me there’s a chance.”