With just one match left to go in CONCACAF World Cup qualifying play, Mexico finds themselves in a great spot to lock up an automatic berth into the tournament in Qatar. They currently sit in third place, tied on points with the USA but behind by six on goal differential. Their last match will be at home, where they’ve only lost two qualifiers since Estadio Azteca opened in 1966, against El Salvador, who is already eliminated from qualification. A win or a draw for Mexico would secure a spot. If they lose, they can still make it, but would need some help from the USA-Costa Rica scoreline.
Mexico’s last visit to the big stage was in 2018 in Russia. They haven’t missed a World Cup since 1990 when they were banned due to age fraud in the 1988 CONCACAF U-20 Tournament. They’ve qualified for every World Cup tournament since, but haven’t made it past the Round of 16 in that span. However, they did make it to the quarterfinals twice before the incident, in 1970 and 1986.
El Tri qualified by finishing first in CONCACAF qualifiers, with 21 points and just one loss through the 10 games played in the final round. They were drawn into Group F with Sweden, South Korea, and Germany, making it a tough road if they wanted to escape the group stage. They fared well, taking down the reigning World Cup champions Germany with a 1-0 victory in their first match. They followed that up with a 2-1 win over South Korea, ending the group stage with a 3-0 loss to Sweden. Their two wins were enough to finish in second place as they and Sweden advanced to the knockout rounds, sending South Korea and last-place Germany home.
Unfortunately for the Mexicans, they were pitted against world giants Brazil in the Round of 16. Neymar opened the scoring in the 51st minute while Roberto Firmino added one in the 88th as the Brazilians were able to keep El Tri off the score sheet, cruising to a 2-0 win. Mexico got 14 total shots off but were only able to put one on target, while Brazil sent in 20 with 10 on frame.
Now under a new manager with Tata Martino at the helm, they’ll look to get past the Round of 16 for the first time in 36 years as they head to Qatar this November.