What Mexico need to qualify for the World Cup Round of 16: All possible outcomes
Why did Poland qualify for the second round of the World Cup and Mexico did not, even though they had the same points?
One of the soccer classics in the World Cup was fighting to grab one of Group C’s top two spots that give access to the Round of 16. None other than Mexico, who are playing in their 17th edition of the tournament who came into the final game in the hope of being able to get to the knockout rounds for the tenth time. But they failed, despite beating Saudi Arabia 2-1 they went out with Poland taking second spot.
Despite the two sides finishing level on four points, Poland had a better goal difference (the difference between goals scored and goals conceded in the tournament) by one goal and so qualified. Note that Mexico were level with Poland on goal difference right till Saudi Arabia scored at the end of the game, however even then Mexico would still have failed to get through as they had received more yellow cards than Poland, which is the next tie-breaker.
El Tri, who were playing at the World Cup for the eighth time in a row, started the competition with a draw against Poland. Guillermo Ochoa again became the hero for the South Americans by saving Robert Lewandowski’s penalty, which ultimately meant Gerardo Martino’s men went away with a point.
However, they faced a hungry and angry Argentina who, after losing against Saudi Arabia, needed the win to be able to continue fighting at the World Cup.
Messi guided La Albiceleste to a 2-0 win that came in the second half after Mexico showed lots of resistance in the first 45 minutes.
Could Mexico have made it to the next round?
The answer, simply put, is yes. El Tri had a slim chance of qualifying for the Round of 16, but the truth is that their fate never depended on their result alone: Mexico are now bottom of Group C with only one point, while Saudi Arabia are in third with three points. Argentina also have three points; leaders Poland have four.
The CONCACAF side had to defeat Saudi Arabia in their last game of the group stage, which they did. In that case with the Mexicans emerging victorious and if Poland had defeated Argentina, they would have automatically gotten a pass into the next round.
Another possible scenario was that Mexico grab all three points and Argentina and Poland share the spoils. In that case, Martino’s squad would have had to beat the Saudis by at least three goals.
With Argentina coming out on top against Poland as happened, Mexico not only had to win but needed to win by more goals to get past Poland on goal difference. Poland had +2 goal difference coming into today’s games, while Mexico had -2. As we predicted, this was always likely to be a problem, given Mexico’s incapacity this tournament to put the ball in the back of the net. In the end they got two, but that was not enough.