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Mexico eliminated on goal difference after late fightback to qualify for World Cup – SABC News

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Mexico scored twice in five second-half minutes in a thrilling last-ditch bid to stay at the World Cup on Wednesday, beating Saudi Arabia 2-1 but agonizingly missing out on the last 16 on goal difference.

Goals from Henry Martin and Luis Chavez soon after the break brought Mexico back into contention, but a string of excellent saves by Saudi goalkeeper Mohammed Al-Owais and two blocked shots denied the South Americans the elusive goal they needed to advance.

The match went down and at one point it looked like Mexico would miss out on Group C opponents Poland due to more yellow cards, but Saudi striker Salem Al-Dawsari scored in stoppage time to make goal difference decisive.

Mexico’s exit ended a run of seven consecutive appearances in the last 16 of the World Cup, while defeat by Saudi Arabia killed what looked like a real chance of progressing from the group stage for the first time in 28 years.

After failing to score in their opening two Group C matches, Mexico’s chances of progressing looked slim depending on the outcome of the game between Argentina and Poland, which Argentina won 2-0 to top the group.

Urgently needing to increase the goal difference, Mexico took control of Saudi Arabia from the outset and never let up, scoring with long-range efforts in a desperate bid to wrest control of their own destiny.

Arbelin Pineda and Chavez were the engines in a high-octane match that the Saudis struggled to get into, defending desperately.

Mexico broke the deadlock two minutes after the break when Cesar Montes’ deft corner kick found Martin, who curled the ball over the line into a packed goal.

They doubled their lead in the 52nd minute when Chavez’s powerful free-kick from 20 meters flew into the corner of the goal beyond the reach of Al Owais, sparking wild Mexican celebrations on the pitch.

Lozano found the back of the net but his goal was disallowed and Mexico fought hard for the decisive third goal, only to be repeatedly denied by Al-Owais’ reflexes in the Saudi goal.

Substitute Uriel Antuna struck a late stunner for offside four minutes from time before Al-Dawsari dashed Mexico’s hopes when he scored the Saudis’ consolation goal in stoppage time.

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