DOHA, Qatar — Mexico manager Gerardo “Tata” Martino said the national team has no fear ahead of their last group-stage match vs. Saudi Arabia, which is a must-win in order to possibly qualify for the knockout round of the World Cup.
“Afraid? No. We compete, we play football, we’re not afraid,” Martino said during the team’s pregame news conference on Tuesday.
“We face and respect all rivals that we have in front of us, we all know how well [Saudi] Arabia has done in the match against Argentina, and especially in the first half against Poland, but I don’t think there is fear in someone who is used to competing.”
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Mexico face tough odds to make it to the top two of Group C.
Martino and his squad will not only need to defeat Saudi Arabia, but will also need to hope that the result of Poland vs. Argentina works in their favor.
The most straightforward scenario for El Tri is for Poland to defeat Argentina, which would then mean that Mexico also just need three points to make it into the round of 16. A draw or win for Argentina would allow Mexico to sneak through on a better goal differential.
As a result, on Wednesday, goals will be much-needed for El Tri at Lusail Stadium. After a 0-0 draw with Poland and 2-0 loss against Argentina, Mexico have yet to find the back of the net.
“The topic of goals is something that obviously worries us,” captain Andres Guardado said in a separate news conference on Tuesday. “You need goals to win, but what worries us more is how we can achieve it. That’s true, that’s what we are missing. Creating goalscoring opportunities.”
Guardado said that he is fully ready for Wednesday’s match after sustaining an injury that led to an early substitution during the loss to Argentina last Saturday.
“Physically I’m good. Unfortunately, I had a knock there against Argentina that wouldn’t let me continue, but I’m doing very well and I’m available for Tata tomorrow,” said the midfielder.
Martino also brushed away the notion that he’s made a handful of excuses for Mexico’s underwhelming results in recent months. Since June, they’ve only collected three wins in 11 matches in all competitions.
“I never made excuses, sometimes we have to describe the realities. When one says we played well for 60 minutes, it’s because we played well for 60 minutes,” Martino said.
“There is no need for excuses, we clearly have a match that we need to win.”
If Mexico were to miss out on the round of 16, it would be the first time they’ve exited the World Cup in the group stage since 1978.
In the previous seven editions of the tournament, El Tri have qualified for the knockout round and also subsequently finished in the round of 16.