LUSAIL, Qatar — Mexico manager Gerardo “Tata” Martino knows that his squad need an exceptional performance against Saudi Arabia in the final game of the World Cup group stage, noting that they must find the back of the net several times to qualify for the knockout round.
With a previous 0-0 draw with Poland in their opener earlier this week, El Tri remain without a goal and have just a single point in the group stage. In order to qualify for the knockout rounds, Mexico will not only need to defeat Saudi Arabia, but hope the result in the other game between Poland and Argentina works in their favor.
The most ideal situation is a win for Poland, which would then set up Mexico to go through with any victory over Saudi Arabia. Anything outside of that would require goal differential to come into play, meaning scoring “at least three goals” will be crucial.
If Poland lose, Mexico will need to overturn a four-goal disadvantage in goal differential.
But can Mexico do it? Martino’s men had just one shot on target against Argentina and have no goals to their name after 180-plus minutes in Qatar.
Heading into the tournament, issues with finishing and creating opportunities were one of the more prominent complaints from fans against the manager and his players.
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“[We need to] take advantage of the plays we have and seek to score goals,” said Mexico’s Roberto Alvarado about what needs to improve.
“Keep moving forward, raise your head up and train for this last game and leave everything on the field.”
Martino will have to decide whether to switch back to his usual 4-3-3 formation against Saudi Arabia after experimenting with a 5-3-2 on Saturday.
The formation had mixed results with a decent start that held the scoreline at 0-0 by half-time, that is, before Argentina began to find weak points in the setup with second-half goals from Lionel Messi and Enzo Fernandez.
“We thought it was the best way to face Argentina. We were interested in finding space. The changes were planned in search of the wings and space,” said Martino after the defeat.
“We didn’t get it the way that we expected.”
As for the fitness of his players, Mexico’s coach noted that captain Andres Guardado, who was substituted just before half-time, had suffered a “muscle injury.”
“Losing the team captain in the first half is a hard blow, but [substitute Erick] Guti[errez] did well,” added Martino.