It was always going to come down to this. From the very first moment that it was decided that Portugal, Russia and Mexico were going to share the group, the feeling was that Russia vs Mexico was going to be the game that determined one of two teams that went through to the knockout phase.
For this match, Mexico arrive on the back of an underwhelming performance against New Zealand, arguably the least talented team in the tournament. As ever, coach Juan Carlos Osorio is facing a mountain of criticism, not just because of the lackluster performance his team gave but because of his tendency to rotate. Whether it was tactics or underestimating the opponent, Osorio opted to make wholesale changes to his squad and it showed, as Mexico had to fight back to earn a 2-1 comeback win over the All Whites.
Of course, things could be worse for Mexico. Not only do they currently top the group, but all they need against Russia is a draw to go through. Russia have looked far from a World Class team, but one can’t forget that they are the hosts. In that respect, they hold a certain advantage over Mexico, who will have the crowd against them from the very first minute.
From a Mexico perspective, this is a game Mexico can’t afford to lose. While a defeat wouldn’t mean the end of the world for Mexico or cost Osorio his job, it would certainly increase the pressure on the Colombian, something he and his team could do less with as we approach closer to the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
Date: Saturday June 23
Time: 8:00 AM Pacific, 10:00 AM Central, 11:00 AM Eastern
Venue: Kazan Arena, Kazan, Russia
Television: Telemundo (US-Spanish), Fox (US-English), UnivisionTDN (Mexico), TDN (Mexico), SKY Planeta Fútbol (Mexico), Azteca 13 (Mexico), TDN (Mexico), Canal de las Estrellas (Mexico), Sky HD (Mexico)