Players of the Mexican national team after the match against Argentina, on November 26, 2022. DYLAN MARTINEZ (REUTERS)
Mexico's pass to the round of 16 hangs by a thread.
After two games, the World Cup debut against Poland (0-0) and the defeat at the hands of Argentina (0-2) place El Tri at the bottom of Group C, an extreme situation that brings those led by Tata Martino closer to an elimination early in the group stage, a historic setback that, if materialized, would end a streak of eight consecutive participations in World Cups qualifying for the next round.
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With a single point and a negative goal difference of -2, those led by Tata Martino are not only forced to beat Saudi Arabia this Wednesday at 1:00 p.m., they must also do so by a wide margin to increase their chances of sneaking into the round of the best 16. In addition, El Tri will keep an eye on the Argentina-Poland game that is played simultaneously, waiting for a favorable but remote combination.
According to the statistical model of EL PAÍS, Mexico has a 22% probability of going to the round of 16, the most complicated scenario between Saudi Arabia (30%), Poland (68%) and Argentina (80%), their rivals of group.
Mexico qualifies for the round of 16 if…
Beat Saudi Arabia 4-0
The only result that allows Mexico to control its destiny is to thrash the Saudis by four goals or more.
The key is in the goal difference, the first tiebreaker criterion that would come into play in case of adding the same points as Argentina or Poland.
With a comfortable victory of such magnitude, El Tri would settle in the round of 16 as second in the group regardless of the final result between Poles and Argentines.
Win by any result and Poland beat Argentina
The simplest scenario for El Tri involves defeating Arabia and hoping for a victory for Lewandowski's Poland against the albiceleste.
With four points, Mexico would advance to the next phase as second in the group and Argentina would be eliminated.
Win by a landslide and Argentina beat Poland
The situation is further complicated by an Argentine triumph: although Mexico and Poland would equalize at four points, the goal difference would give the Poles the pass.
To get into the round of 16, the triumphs of the Tri and Argentina should be comfortable enough to reverse the current goal difference between Mexico (-2) and Poland (2).
For example, a 3-0 win for Mexico and a 1-0 win for Argentina would be enough to qualify among the top sixteen.
An alternate scenario calls for Mexico to win and Argentina to beat Poland by three or more goals.
Mexico is eliminated if...
Win by less than 4-0 and Argentina draw with Poland
Even with the victory, Mexico can be left out due to its goal difference (-2) compared to Argentina (1) and Poland (2).
Hence, any win by less than four goals, combined with a draw between Argentina and Poland, would leave El Tri out of the next round.
Win by less than 4-0 and Argentina beat Poland
If Mexico beat Arabia 1-0 and Argentina beat Poland by the same scoreline, Martino's team would be out on better goal difference than Poland.
The same if Mexico wins 2-0 and Argentina wins by the minimum against the Poles.
Only the victories of the Tri and the albiceleste with a margin equal to or greater than four goals would manage to tilt the tiebreaker in favor of Mexico.
draw or lose
In case of losing or splitting points with Saudi Arabia, Mexico would be eliminated from the World Cup and would close its participation in Qatar as the last in the sector.
The last time that El Tri was left out of the World Cup in the group stage was in Argentina in 1978. Since then, the team has participated in eight World Cups and in all of them it has managed to reach the round of 16.
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