The “Tata” Martino Era has come to an end. And it won’t be remembered too fondly as El Tri slumped out of the 2022 World Cup at the group stage, an ignominy that had not happened to Mexico since Argentina 1978.
El Tri defeated Saudi Arabia 2-1 on Wednesday, but fell one goal short of reaching the knockout round even as Poland was roughed up by Group D winner Argentina.
Wednesday’s results left Poland and Mexico even at 4 points, but the Europeans took second place by virtue of having a better goal difference.
The Poles finished the group stage with a goal differential of ‘0’ (2 goals for, 2 goals against) while El Tri posted a –1 differential (2 goals scored, 3 goals allowed).
El Tri bids adios to ‘Tata’
The early exit ended Mexico’s streak of seven straight Round of 16 appearances, a run only exceeded by Brazil. The Seleção Canarinho has advanced out of the group stage in 10 consecutive World Cups. England has the second-longest such streak now after securing its seventh straight Round of 16 appearance Tuesday.
Coach Martino has long been a favorite punching bag for the Mexican media (and deservedly so, most would say) as his El Tri sides struggled to produce goals.
It was so bad in Qatar that Mexico’s scoreless drought in World Cup play extended beyond 430 minutes (that’s nearly five games’ worth), only ending when Henry Martín charged into the goal mouth on a corner kick and swept in a César Montes side-heel pass in minute 47.
When Luis Chávez fired home a 25-meter free kick just 5 minutes later, the improbable seemed possible. Right about the same time, Argentina scored its second to take a 2-0 lead over Poland and El Tri was on the verge of pulling off a Lazarus.
But the revival was not to be. Mexico would go on to have two goals annulled for offside and Saudi goalie Mohammed Al-Owais did the rest, coming up with eight saves to deny El Tri its miracle.
The Argentine coach who led “Los Albiceleste” to the 2014 World Cup final was hired to get Mexico to that sacred fifth game in Qatar and he lasted only three.
His controversial roster decisions and ineffective in-game adjustments will be lamented for some time, especially as Martino’s choices might have retarded the development of promising youngsters.
Many nay-sayers will be only too ready to proclaim that “It would have been different if Diego Lainez (or Santiago Giménez, or Alejandro Zendejas … or even “Chicharito” for heaven’s sake) had been included on the roster.”
So now “Los Ratones Verdes” will straggle home with plenty of time off until domestic leagues resume in January to wonder about what might have been.
At the same time, a heated debate will begin about who should be Mexico’s next coach … Miguel Herrera? Guillermo Aldama? Nacho Ambriz?
But all is not over for Mexico in Qatar. Ref César Ramos has had two solid performances (Tunisia-Denmark on Nov. 22 and Belgium-Morocco on Nov. 27) so he remains in the running for an additional assignment or two.
And assistant referee Karen Díaz will be making history on Thursday as part of the first-ever all-female officiating crew at a men’s World Cup. France’s Stephanie Frappart will have the whistle Díaz (a 38-year-old native of Aguascalientes) and Brazil’s Neuza Back will have the flags.