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Mexico won its final match of the 2022 World Cup, but it wasn’t enough to advance to the knockout stage of the tournament.

Entering the day, all four teams in Group C — Argentina, Mexico, Poland, and Saudi Arabia — had a path to reach the knockout round or to be eliminated, meaning each team had everything to play for on their final day of the group stage.

For Mexico, the mission was simple: They had to beat Saudi Arabia, and then hope the result in the Argentina-Poland match, being played simultaneously, worked in their favor.

El Tri did their job, beating Saudi Arabia 2-1, giving them three points from the match to bring them to four points in the tournament. The four points put them level with Poland, who had four points entering the day, and wound up losing to Argentina, also 2-0.

Unfortunately for Mexico, they were one goal short.

Despite being tied on points, Mexico ultimately fell out of the World Cup due to goal differential, with Mexico’s -1 falling short of Poland’s 0. The deciding goal was one scored in the final minutes of Wednesday’s game by Saudi Arabia, which pushed the goal differential between Mexico and Poland into Poland’s favor.

Had Saudi Arabia not scored that final goal, it’s possible that the result would have been even more heartbreaking for Mexico.

With a 2-0 win, Mexico would have been tied with Poland on both goal differential (0) and goals scored (2) — the first two tiebreakers in the group stage of the World Cup. After that, the head-to-head record between teams is supposed to determine which side goes through, but Mexico and Poland played to a 0-0 draw in their opening match of the group stage.

That would have left the final, controversial tiebreaker: fair play points — an assessment of points determined by the number of yellow and red cards a team accumulates over their three matches of the group stage.

Because Mexico also trailed Poland on fair play points, Saudi Arabia’s final goal didn’t ultimately change the final outcome — Poland advancing out of the group along with Argentina — but it did change the tiebreaker responsible for sending them through.

Still, the thin margins separating Mexico and Poland across two different fields in Qatar made for a chaotic final few minutes.

Despite holding a 2-0 lead, Mexico knew that they still needed another goal to push them ahead of Poland on goal differential. Several times in the closing minutes against Saudi Arabia, it looked like Mexico had stolen it.

In the second half, they found the back of the net twice, but were called offside by inches both times.

The final chance came in the 86th minute, and looked like the goal that would send El Tri through until the official raised his flag.

Despite an emphatic push through the final moments of action, Mexico never found the goal they needed. After making the knockout round in seven straight World Cup tournaments, El Tri’s streak was over.

World Cup rules can be confusing, but for the side that comes up short, tiebreakers are always heartbreakers.

Source: Tyler Lauletta| Insider

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