Top Stories

Mexico left to wonder what could have been after latest World Cup knockout round loss


For the seventh consecutive World Cup, Mexico’s tournament concluded in the Round of 16. The ever-elusive fifth game remains difficult to reach. The curse lives on.

El Tri will no doubt be frustrated by that fact. It’s frustrating to come up short again and again and it’s frustrating to not be pushing on in a tournament that started so well. But, despite the loss, despite the elimination and despite the ongoing roadblock of the knockout rounds, the 2018 World Cup should be remembered as a fond one for Mexico, even if it wasn’t as fond as it could have been.

It all ended on Monday for El Tri, who fell, 2-0, to a Brazil team that is, in many ways, the better team. They were better on paper and on the day, surviving an early Mexico push before putting in goals to bookend the second half. Brazil remains a tournament favorite and their performance showed it, unfortunately for Mexico.

The loss was like many that preceded it at this stage. After emerging from the group stage, Mexico simply ran into a challenge it couldn’t overcome. Monday’s loss wasn’t due to fear or invidual mistakes or some curse. Like those that came before, it was due to quality. At this point in time, Mexico isn’t quite ready to take that step, and the 2018 World Cup was a reminder. On its day, Mexico can beat the world’s top teams, and the Germany match showed that. But, in the knockout round of a World Cup, the game changes, and Mexico isn’t quite ready to beat those changes.

Despite all of that, Mexico leaves having impressed many. The win over Germany was a signature moment. The composed win over South Korea was too. Mexico leaves Russia 2-2 and with a one question looming large: what could have been?

What if Mexico handled business against Sweden to secure first place in the group? A more favorable matchup with Switzerland would have loomed large, opening a very real path towards the deeper stages of the knockout round. A more confident, unbeaten Mexico team could have made a real run, but that stinker against Sweden appeared to be a turning point for El Tri.

What if Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez didn’t pick up a knock seconds into the Brazil clash? Without their star forward, the Mexico attack struggled to create, even as El Tri dominated the wings early. The injury forced Juan Carlos Osorio into a trio of early substitutions, forcing his hand in a big way. If ‘Chicharito’ stays healthy, the gameplan goes on. Without him, Mexico was forced into a corner, and you can’t beat Brazil when in that corner.

Changes will surely come. A new coach is almost certain to come in. Up-and-coming players like Jonathan Gonzalez will likely jump in to become centerpieces of the next cycle. Hirving Lozano will likely take over as the team’s big star as he grows into one of the world’s elite young talents. Older stars will be phased out. Even Rafa Marquez.

It’s not a true ending of an era or a changing of the guard. Mexico is good and will almost certainly continue to be good heading into the next cycle. El Trio will have four more years to think about reaching Game 5 and turning those what-ifs into mission accomplished in Qatar in 2022.


  1. I love to watch “green rats” get beaten!
    Riots & looting Pacific blvd in Huntington Park, CA must been massive.

  2. why, why, why did chicharito have to get injured for THIS GAME?? the stadium, the crowd, brazil and NO CHICHARITO! that moment will never happen again.

  3. Round of 16 is about Mexico’s natural level as they are always ranked at about that number, so it’s yet another average showing. However it sucks to see teams with less talent (Russia, Costa Rica, Korea) have these one-off runs and advance further.

  4. Is it ok to be glad that Mexico was eliminated and the streak lives on?
    (Our arch rival falling short made my day…)

  5. No team in CONCACAF has ever been close to as good as any Brazil team in the last 60 years, at least. Costa Rica came closer to holding off Brazil by playing defensively and only gave up a goal in the 91st minute. Mexico made it interesting in the first half, but they just don’t have enough quality to slug it out with Brazil toe to toe. Consider that Brazil’s second best striker scored something like 23 goals for Liverpool. What most impressed me about
    Brazil today is how tough they were. We know they are extremely skilled, but they outfought Mexico most of the game, getting most of the 50/50 balls. It’s no disgrace to lose to Brazil, but if both teams play well, there’s no way Mexico beats this Brazil team. The Swiss tied Brazil, so it’s no given that Brazil beats Belgium.

  6. It was a tough draw for Mexico and Costa Rica (i.e CONCACAF). Even if Mexico or CR had made it out of difficult groups, they were likely to do so as runners-up and then play Brazil and Germany. This was tougher to take for Mexico because they had the chance to finish top of the group and avoid Brazil.

    • Russian 2018 was destined to be a UEFA World Cup. Quarterfinals will have 7 UEFA teams and Brazil. Happened in 2006 (Germany) with Argentina as the only non-UEFA team. It happened in US 1994, when Brazil won it all.

      • Yes, because Uruguay is definitely a UEFA team. When one looks at Suarez teeth you might even think they were a kingdom in the British Isles. All jokes aside, there is a good chance that there is an all CONMEBOL semi final match.

  7. Poor decision making in the final third was also a big factor. Gallardo had Lozano wide open down the left and he decides to shoot – next play was Brazil’s opener. There were too many similar plays and those decisions ended Mexico’s chances. Obviously it didn’t help that their main striker was hurt early on. Hopefully they’ll focus on improving their decision making and finishing. All four games, as well as the pre-world cup friendlies, showed those factors to be their main weakness.


Leave a Comment