Rostov-on-don, Russia — After Saturday’s 2-1 victory over South Korea, Mexico has a legitimate shot to win the World Cup.
“As unexpected as that statement might have sounded at the start of the tournament, and as ludicrous as it would have been two years ago, it is now one of the most remarkable realities in the early part of this unpredictable event,” writes Martin Rogers in USA Today.
Mexico’s second straight win puts it on the cusp of the knockout round.
“Beating South Korea isn’t, in itself, the kind of thing that should serve as a reliable pointer toward international glory, and it isn’t,” writes Rogers. “What sets Mexico apart is its newfound ruthlessness and a level of resiliency that, if sustained, will make it an opponent no team wishes to face.”
A healthy mindset was key, said one of Mexico’s star players.
“We didn’t listen to the criticism,” said Javier Hernandez, one of the scorers against South Korea. “It was just noise.”
Mexico opened by upsetting defending champion Germany 1-0. It has a chance to win Group F on Wednesday when the team faces Sweden.
“We have beaten two brilliant and complicated teams, Germany and South Korea,” Hernandez said. “Our talent and hard work have paid off.”
Mexico coach Juan Carlos Osorio said he prepared more for the match against South Korea than for the game against Germany.
“Very often when you play countries or teams with less of a footballing history, human beings tend to rest on their laurels a little bit. They tend to relax, they tend to lose focus, so every weekend, every match, we insist on being fully focused on not losing that important message,” Osorio said. “We’ve received a lot of praise, we the team, and we’ve tried to remain focused.”
Mexican fans avoided using a homophobic chant against the opposing goalkeeper. The chant previously earned the country’s soccer federation a fine.
If Mexico beats Sweden, the team will possibly face Brazil.
Mexico has reached the round of 16 in six straight World Cups, but the team has not advanced to the quarterfinals since playing at home in 1986.
With information from The Associated Press