Mexico played their best game of the tournament at the right time as they beat Senegal 1-0 to claim a spot in the quarterfinals of the U-20 World Cup. Although Mexico clearly still needs improvement, Mexico was the better team and deservedly defeated a Senegal team that was very disorganized and totally dependent on individual plays. Still, it was a very difficult game that was very even until Senegal went a man down. Even then the goal didn't happen until minute 88 when Ronaldo Cisneros was able to score his second goal of the competition to book Mexico's ticket. They will now face England in the Quarterfinals, another very tough opponent.
Mexico surprised in the first half by being the better side against the tougher and faster Senegal team. This was mostly based on Senegal's disorganization in the attacking field that failed to produce anything but individual efforts. Still, they had the best chance in the game after Mexico lost the play and got countered. Juan Aguayo saved a shot almost off the line after the Senegalese player had taken the keeper.
Mexico, however, did have more of the ball as they sat back and looked the more organized team. But the continuing lack of precision in their passing by the Mexican players (which has been a constant this whole tournament) destroyed every attack. To make matter worse, Uriel Antuna had a very bad first half in a limited performance and Kevin Magaña continued his tournament struggles. The 0-0 at halftime was just.
The second half had a great start for Mexico, although they failed to take advantage of it. Two great chances were wasted by their forwards. First a cross landed in the penalty spot area for Pablo Yrizar but his shot went terribly wide. Then a long ball was missed by the Senegal defenders and fell to Eduardo Aguirre alone in front of the keeper. Instead of shooting, he tried to control it and fell into the goalkeeper as the ball went wide. Even though they were claims for a penalty kick, it wasn't given.
After the missed opportunities, Senegal had their better run of the game and they used their physicality to their advantage. Then what eventually became the turning point of the game happened when Alouene Gueye got a second yellow and was out of the game.
Mexico having a man advantage helped the team but not as much as expected, as it seemed to light a fire into Senegal. Nonetheless, Mexico held on and they subbed in key players in Diego Aguilar and Ronaldo Cisneros. Three minutes before the end, they combined to give Mexico the win when Aguilar crossed it to Aguirre. Despite the ball passing him and the Senegalese keeper, it found Cisneros for the open net goal. Mexico did a good job in the final minutes to keep the ball and they held on for the ticket to the Quarterfinals.
With the win, Mexico changes the story on their U-20 World Cup. For the first time since 2011, they are going to play in the Quarterfinals. While their game still hasn't been as good as expected, they are well on their way after today's performance, by far their best in the tournament. That said, they will need to improve a lot. given that England is a very good opponent who will not show the disorganization that Senegal showed today. Against the English, they will once again be the underdogs, something that seems to suit this team well as they continue with this historic pattern of rising up to the opposition's level.