Mexico, a thrilling qualification. Today’s game with Sweden was meant to be a mere formality for El Tri to clinch a spot in the Round of 16, but it rather risked turning into an atrocious disappointment for coach Juan Manuel Osorio. Mexico succumbed 0-3, and ultimately had to thank South Korea for their win over Germany, to save their spot among the best 16.
The Tricolores were totally overwhelmed by the Scandinavians today. Sweden outclassed their opponents mostly on the physical side, but were also helped by a team only vaguely comparable to that squad that had impressed so much during their previous games in Group F with Germany and South Korea.
The Suedes made themselves dangerous from the very beginning, and especially from the corner kick spot. Hirving Lozano tried to shake his side up, but this time he was not assisted as expected by his teammates. Sweden taking the lead was an inevitable consequence, even if it came only in the 50th minute: Ludwig Augustinsson took advantage of a mess-up by the Mexican defense to bring his side ahead.
The rest of the second half was a Swedish monologue. Andreas Granqvist made it two from the penalty kick spot – second goal, and second penalty conversion for Sweden’s captain in Russia. A late own goal by Edson Alvarez rounded up the score, promoting the Scandinavian as the top team in Group F, and the Mexicans as second.
Sweden advancing to the knock-out phase does indeed make a little less painful Italy’s absence from the world stage. Against Gian Piero Ventura’s Azzurri, the Scandinavians had looked like an average team. Which makes coach Jan Andersson’s success an even bigger achievement: Not only he took his side to the World Cup, and decided to renounce to the national hero Zlatan Ibrahimovic. He also managed to bring his team past the Group Stage.
Sweden’s next opponents – on July 3 in Saint Petersburg – will be Switzerland, and with all due respect to the excellent Swiss side, there could have been tougher challenges ahead (…did anybody say “Brazil?”). For what seen today, Russia 2018 could bring to Sweden similar achievements as in U.S.A. 1994, where the blue-and-yellow reached the Semi Finals and eventually the 3rd Place.
Mexico, on the other hand, will need to get back to the drawing board, in view of an upcoming Round of 16 game with Brazil, next Monday in Samara. There is much to reflect about for coach Osorio, after today’s setback. The Tricolores made it to the knock-out phase for the 7th time in a row, but have never advanced past the Round of 16 since 1986, when they were playing at home. It’s time to wake up for the Mexican, otherwise their World Cup dream will end pretty soon.
But if Sweden and Mexico have something in common today, is having advanced at the expenses of Germany. The defending World Champions were eliminated in the Group Stage – something that had never happened in their history, and for the first time, coach Joachim Low, who holds his position since 12 years, will be called to answer for that.
This is the 4th time in the last 5 World Cup editions were the incumbent champions are eliminated in the first round. The world title is a heavy honor to bear for four years. In football, it would seem, power wear out those who do have it.
June 27, 2018 – World Cup Group Stage Pool F
SCORERS: 50′ Augustinsson, 62′ Granqvist (pen.), 74′ Alvarez (pen.)
|MEXICO (4-2-3-1): Ochoa; Alvarez, Salcedo, Moreno, Gallardo (65’ Fabian); Herrera, Guardado (75’ Je. Corona); Layun (90′ Peralta), Carlos Vela, Lozano; Hernandez (Jo. Corona, Talavera, Ayala, Gutierrez, J. Dos Santos, Aquino, Marquez, G. Dos Santos, Jimenez) Coach: Osorio
|SWEDEN (4-4-2): Olsen; Lustig, Granqvist , Lindelof, Augustinsson; Claesson, Larsson (57’ Svensson), Ekdal (80′ Hiljemark), Forsberg; Berg (67’ Thelin), Toivonen (Johnsson, Nordfeldt, Krafth, Jansson, Olsson, Helander, Durmaz, Rohden, Guidetti) Coach: Andersson|
REFEREE: Pitana (Argentina)
NOTES: Yellow Card: Gallardo, Moreno, Layun (M), Lustig, Larsson (S)