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Mexico crush El Salvador and book ticket to U-20 World Cup

Thanks to a hat-trick by Uriel Antuna, Mexico beat El Salvador 6-1 and clinch a spot in South Korea

Mexico celebrates their 6-1 win against El Salvador
Rafael Hernandez

On the back of Uriel Antuna and the other Santos Laguna players, Mexico did a complete 180 and crushed El Salvador 6-1 to qualify to the 2017 U-20 World Cup. While Mexico didn't have their best game defensively, they came out at full force and stunned an El Salvador team, scoring three times before 20th minute mark.

Mexico came into the game with a severe emotional hit after losing to the United States 1-0. Not only had Mexico lost their opening round game against their biggest rival, but they had been badly outplayed and outcoached too. Meanwhile, El Salvador had the benefit of having three extra days of rest than Mexico.

Mexico came out swinging and El Salvador looked caught by surprise by Mexico's physical prowess in such a short time. El Salvador's goalkeeper, Mario Martinez, also looked very nervous, and it showed when Mexico opened the scoring with a long range shot by Uriel Antuna. It was a strong shot but it definitely looked like Martinez should have stopped it.

Antuna proceded to go back to the level he had the first two games and started dominating his side of the field. Off a great play with Diego Cortes, Antuna headed in the 2-0.

A couple of minutes later, a throw-in caught El Salvador by surprise and Walter Chiguila cleared a low cross into his own net.

While the 3-0 looked like a deciding score, El Salvador played well while Mexico's defense didn't. La Selecta had some chances and eventually earned a penalty. Jose Hernandez, though, stopped his second penalty of the tournament against Roberto Dominguez.

The game had more control by El Salvador as Mexico sat back and countered. Ronaldo Cisneros then sent the ball into Eduardo Aguirre, who slid in and scored a fourth just before the break.

While it looked like the score was set for Mexico, El Salvador came out the better team at the start of the second half. From a free kick, Fernando Castillo performed a beautifully taken goal to put things at 4-1.

El Salvador’s joy was short-lived, however. A second penalty was called, this time in favor of Mexico, and Ronaldo Cisneros scored El Tri’s fifth goal of the game.

El Salvador kept the pressure but didn't create much after the goal and in the final minutes, Antuna scored his hat-trick of a low shot.

Mexico closes their tournament as one of four teams going to South Korea. While they started great in the group stages, the bad first half against Honduras and the whole game against the United States exposed Marco Antonio Ruiz’s side. The coaching and some of the players will need to improve to do something meaningful in the World Cup. Still, Mexico might benefit from a stronger team as the coach should have more players available come World Cup time.

Mexico did show big talent in some areas, although they really showed to be a somewhat undersized team, especially if compared to future competition. That said, all of these are things they need to answer in the future and now will be able to do it at a U-20 World cup, two days after that dream seemed to have slipped through their fingers.