Mexico will face off against Senegal in the Round of 16 of the U-20 World Cup in a game where they are heavy underdogs. While both teams struggled in the group stages, Mexico’s group stage performances were particularly bad, and they also have a bad history of matching up with African teams. It's not clear if Mexico will finally elevate their level of play knowing that there is no tomorrow if they fail to beat Senegal. The winner of the game will face England (who defeated Costa Rica) in the Quarterfinals of the tournament.
Mexico's performance in the U-20 World Cup has been lackluster to say the least. They wasted a great opportunity by needing a last minute goal to beat Vanuatu. Vanuatu were considered the worst team in the tournament and lived up to that expectation by finishing in last place, losing all their games. They then tied 0-0 against a German team that had also been disappointing. Finally they lost 1-0 to a very good Venezuelan team that was already qualified. While technically the results didn't look that bad on paper (except for Vanuatu), their performance was consistently below average. The Germany game was very close but both team’s play was rather poor. And while Venezuela has shown to be a very good team, Mexico really was dominated and offered no real threat. In the end the 1-0 result was kind of flattering to them.
Senegal, like Mexico, is coming in after finishing second with four points. That said, they had a tougher group than Mexico and their win was against a good Saudi Arabian team. As a match up they are the side who looks to be more benefited because of their characteristics. Mexico has really suffered against speed and physical toughness, two things that Senegal has in spades. Historically this characteristics has made it so that Mexico has always suffered playing against African sides like Senegal. Although this isn't new, this team's play has shown to struggle even more than normal with this. In the CONCACAF qualifiers they struggled with the physicality of Honduras and the United States and coach Marco Antonio Ruiz looked like he totally failed to correct the situation after the showing against Vanuatu.
Mexico will be going in to a very tough situation. In a positive sign, a lot of teams that struggled in the group stages have played really well in this knockout stage. Teams like Germany, Saudi Arabia and Portugal all played a lot better in the Round of 16 game after lackluster Group Stage performances. Still the only one of those three that won their game was Portugal. As such, they must really improve a lot and hope they turn the tide in an age category that is very inconsistent. It will be a big upset if they are able to.
Date: Thursday, June 1
Time: 12:30 AM Pacific, 2:30 AM Central, 3:30 AM Eastern
Venue: Incheon Football Stadium, Incheon
Television: Fox Sports 1 (US), TDN (Mexico), Azteca 7 (Mexico), Canal 5 Televisa (Mexico)