Mexico coach Tata Martino said he was expecting Wednesday’s final Group C clash against Saudi Arabia to go full tilt from the start, with both sides needing a big win to seal their place in the knockout round.
Mexico, who played out a goalless draw with Poland in their opener, sit bottom of the group with one point after Argentina re-ignited their campaign on Saturday thanks to sublime second-half efforts from Lionel Messi and Enzo Fernandez.
Martino’s side, who have yet to score in this tournament, will likely need to beat third-placed Saudi Arabia by at least three goals on Wednesday to stand any chance of advancing to the last 16. If Poland beat Argentina, however, any victory would suffice.
“As long as there are chances, we always need to try,” Argentine Martino said. “Saudi Arabia need to win the match and score goals, and so do we.”
“I believe that in life and here, with these players, footballers who compete on a daily basis are used to bouncing back when we have to. It’s difficult, of course. It’s definitely hard... The second goal was really harmful for us.”
Playing on the counter and snapping into challenges all over the pitch, Mexico’s high pressing game stifled most of Argentina’s attack as well as their talisman Lionel Messi, with veteran skipper Andres Guardado a commanding presence in midfield.
But Guardado was forced off injured late in the first half and Argentina looked more determined after the break, before Messi’s moment of magic dragged them out of trouble and substitute Enzo Fernandez curled in a sublime strike to seal the result.
“We were playing with the same efficiency as usual, Argentina had no clear chances until then (Messi’s goal)... We were interested in looking for spaces, the idea was to stop their midfield and then to counter very quickly.
“We probably didn’t achieve that as we expected when it comes to the attack. We missed the final pass... We didn’t lose our style but we lost our consistency when it came to holding the ball and pushing in numbers as we did in previous moments.
“I don’t think that happened against Poland but I did see that in the second half today... But we held our own against a huge opponent and I’m sure we’ll play in the same way in our next match.”
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