Mexico defeated South Korea 2-1 at Rostov Oblast’s Rostov Arena in the second game of the group stage at the 2018 World Cup in Russia on Saturday.
The victory puts Mexico at the top of the table for Group F with 6 points and that much closer to qualifying for the round of 16. Juan Carlos Osorio’s displayed the same counter-attacking prowess that helped them beat Germany and defended enough to win three points.
Mexico’s blistering pace and dribbling forced South Korea to foul players on a consistent basis. Carlos Vela and Hirving Lozano, both arguably the best players on the pitch for Mexico, were fouled frequently. Héctor Herrera, while definitely not as influential as in the first game against Germany, committed no major errors alongside Andrés Guardado in the midfield.
Almost just as impressive was Mexico’s ability to backtrack and regroup in defense when needed. Edson Álvarez covered lots of ground for Osorio’s side while Héctor Moreno and Carlos Salcedo combined for a block each on a first half South Korean counter. Guillermo Ochoa intervened when needed and was sure-handed beneath the posts.
Osorio’s men broke through via a Carlos Vela 26th minute penalty when a Guardado cross found the arm of a South Korean defender for a handball call. This was Vela’s first World Cup goal and the first penalty scored by a Mexican in the World Cup since Cuauhtémoc Blanco scored against France in the 2010 group stage.
While quiet throughout the encounter, Herrera’s largest contribution was probably knocking the ball free from South Korean possession to begin a 66th minute counter led by “Chucky” Lozano. Lozano passed to Javier Hernández who cleanly finished to make it 2-0 in Mexico’s favor. This is the third consecutive World Cup that Hernández has scored in, having scored against France and Argentina in 2010 and against Croatia in 2014.
South Korea’s Son Heung-Min scored a sublime goal in the 93rd minute, but it was too little too late of an effort to change the outcome. Osorio’s substitutions did not have a tremendous impact—rather captain Rafael Márquez almost gifted South Korea a goal in the 77th minute due to miscommunication with Ochoa.
Mexico awaits the result of Sweden vs. Germany and will face Sweden next week to wrap up the group stage.
Man of the Match: Carlos Vela
Vela’s penalty was a deserved payoff for the effort he put in on the pitch. His careful distribution and protection of the ball when in possession prolonged Mexico’s attack. He also took a bit of a battering as South Korea’s defense had little to no other answer for his play. His first World Cup goal served as a testament to the relentless Mexican attack and—on a more personal note—perhaps a tribute to his grandfather who passed in the past week.
Here are the ratings for the entire Saturday squad:
Guillermo Ochoa: B+
Héctor Moreno: B
Edson Álvarez: B
Jesús Gallardo: B-
Miguel Layún: B-
Carlos Salcedo: B+
Héctor Herrera: B-
Carlos Vela: A
Andrés Guardado: B
Hirving Lozano: A
Javier Hernández: B+
Rafael Márquez: C
Jesús Corona: C+
Giovani Dos Santos: C