On an afternoon when everything went wrong for Mexico, El Tri was rescued.
Like the USA in 2002, Mexico owes a big thanks to South Korea for keeping it alive at the 2018 World Cup.
What's next ... July 2
Mexico vs. Brazil vs. Mexico, Samara
(10 am ET) July 3
Sweden vs. Switzerland, St. Petersburg (10 am ET)
In 2002, the USA lost Poland, 3-1, on the final day of the group stage, but South Korea beat Portugal,
1-0, on a late goal from Park Ji-Sung
, when a tie would have sent the Portuguese into the final 16 along with South Korea, the World Cup co-host.
The morning after the final day of
group play in 2002, Bruce Arena
, the U.S. coach, was late to his daily press conference in Seoul and opened by apologizing, "I spent the morning shopping for Park Ji-Sung."
Wednesday, in Russia, Mexico and the United States, Mexicans went up any Koreans they saw and gave them big hugs.
After beating Germany, 1-0, and South Korea, 2-1, Mexico appeared to be
cruising in Russia, but it still faced the possibility of exiting if it lost to Sweden and Germany beat South Korea. Scores of 1-0 would have created a three-way tie for first on points, goal
difference and goals scored, setting in motion a host of other tiebreakers that disfavored Mexico.
Mexico coach Juan Carlos Osorio
gambled and went with the same starting lineup
-- and same formation -- that beat South Korea, marking the first time in 51 games he didn't make any changes.
The gamble backfired as Mexico came out flat and was overrun in the second
half when Sweden scored three goals in 24 minutes to open up a 3-0 lead.
Mexico's only hope was Germany, the defending champion, didn't win. As Sweden added one goal after another, it still remained 0-0
in Kazan. South Korea had entered the day with slim hopes of advancing, but they depended on beating Germany and Sweden losing to Mexico.
The latter wasn't going to happen, but the
Koreans didn't give up. Germany had its chances but never looked like breaking down the organized Korean backline. In stoppage time, South Korea got goals from Kim Young-Gwon
to beat Germany, 2-0.
So despite a 3-0 loss to Sweden, Mexico was through to the round of 16 for the seventh straight time.
Mexico's defensive structure for the heavy defeat.
"We usually play with three at the back and an anchor man who is very good in the air," he said. "Basically, we defend with four. Today,
for the first time we decided to play with four and not that structure. And at the end, we didn't succeed in our penetration in the final third."
No team has ever won its first two games
at the World Cup and not advanced in group play where the top two teams go through.
"It would have been horrible to get all the way to this match with six points and not have qualified,"
Osorio said. "We will sit down and over today's match again. But there is not much time to sit and cry over what happened." Group F
RESULTS Sunday, June 17
0. (Lozano 35. Att.: 78,011.) Monday, June 18
1 South Korea
0. (Granqvist pen. 65. Att.: 42,300.)
Saturday, June 23 Mexico
2 South Korea
1. (Vela pen. 26, Hernandez 66;
Son Heung-Min 90+3. Att.: 43,472.) Germany
1. (Reus 48, Kroos 90+5; Toivonen 32. Att.: 44,287.)
Wednesday, June 27 South
0. (Kim Young-Gwon 90+2, Son Heung-Min 90+6. Att.: 41,835.) Sweden
0. (Augustinsson 50, Granqvist pen. 62, own goal 74.
, 6 points (5-2) 2. Mexico
, 6 points (3-4) 3. South Korea
, 3 points (3-3)
, 3 points (2-4)