Mexico qualified to the second round of the World Cup for its seventh straight time. Since 1994, Mexico has been able to go through and qualify in each World Cup. As such, we look back to rank these Group Stages performances to see which of them were the best and where this year’s ranks.
1. 2014 World Cup (2nd Place Group A)
Mexico’s best performance in a Group stage during this streak has been in Brazil 2014. Mexico went through in second place with seven points and playing some of their best football during this World Cup streak. They opened with a 1-0 victory over Cameroon that should’ve been 3-0 had the linesman not incorrectly disallowed 2 goals. Then they got their first point against Brazil when they tied the hosts 0-0. In that game, Guillermo Ochoa had probably the best ever World Cup game for a Mexican goalkeeper. Finally, they closed out by beating Croatia 3-1. That Croatian team was loaded with talent (Luka Modric, Ivan Perisic, Mario Mandzukic, Ivan Rakitic) and had played well in their first two games. But Mexico decisively got the victory and went through tied with Brazil in points. Results wise, the best, and in football level, close to it.
2. 1998 World Cup (2nd Place Group E)
This might not be many people’s pick for second place since Mexico only got 5 points, but in terms of level of play, it was as good as Mexico has looked in a World Cup. Mexico became the comeback kings, as they trailed in all games but got back to finish undefeated. It started with the game against South Korea. Mexico went down 1-0 but went up a man after a South Korea player got red carded. They then proceeded to dominate the second half and show some of the best offensive play from a Mexican team in a World Cup. In their second match, they started dominating a tough Belgian team that was basically playing at home (Belgium borders France). Then a red card to Pavel Pardo hit the team hard and Mexico ended up down 2-0. A red card to Belgium evened things out, and Mexico proceeded to tie the game (with a Cuauhtemoc Blanco wonder goal). At the end, they were unlucky not to win it. Mexico finished off facing a WC title candidate in the Netherlands. They were overly superior and it showed as they took a 2-0 lead. Mexico held on and when news came that South Korea was drawing Belgium, giving Mexico the pass to the Round of 16. It inspired Mexico and they went on to tie in the final minutes, providing a great World Cup and memories for all Mexican fans, as for the first time in their history they went through to the knockout stages in European soil.
3. 2002 World Cup (1st place Group G)
Mexico won the group in the 2002 Group with 7 points. While this World Cup finished as one of the worst of them, if not the worst because of the defeat to the U.S, the Group Stage was one of the best. Mexico opened with a tough but fair win against Croatia. Croatia had finished in third place the last World Cup, but it was a side that was getting old. Mexico then had some trouble with newcomer Ecuador but got the 2-1 win. Even with Mexico having six points, Croatia beating Italy meant Mexico wasn’t qualified but they would get their goal with a 1-1 against Italy. In Mexico’s best game, Jared Borgetti scored one of the best headed goals in World Cup history and Mexico took the lead. In the final moments, Alessandro Del Piero tied the game and both sides went through as Croatia lost to Ecuador. It’s one of the top performances, but overall, Mexico only had one stand out game against Italy. Because of that, it’s ranked below the 1998.
4. 2018 World Cup (2nd place Group F)
Mexico was achieving it’s best ever Group stage until a final game had Mexico sweating qualification. Mexico started with what might be their best ever result in a Group Stage game by defeating Germany 1-0. This became only the second time ever Mexico defeated a past World Cup winner. They then had a good victory over South Korea, but once again, like in 2002, they didn’t seal qualification after two wins. The 3-0 defeat to Sweden came, where they were outplayed in every way. The deserved defeat, and they needed a South Korea win to reach the next phase. The win was a little bittersweet, in that it gave Mexico the pass but it kind of tarnished a little their opening game victory, as Germany was eliminated from the World Cup in the Group Stages for the first time since 1938. Still, the first two results were more than deserved, and the reason why Germany didn’t qualify was as much because of Mexico’s victory than South Korea’s. Plus this had been a team that had defeated Mexico in the Confederations Cup the year before by a 4-1 score. It was a good team that Mexico rattled and the result is not a small deal. Plus the 6 points gotten means that they are the most after the 2014 and 2002 World Cups.
5. 1994 World Cup (1st place Group E)
Mexico came back to the World Cup by being placed in the Group of Death. At the end, however, they were the Group winners in a strange group that had all teams tied at 4 points and with a 0 in the goal differential. Mexico was the top score and thus won the Group. Mexico started with a disappointing defeat to Norway, not the first or last time they would have trouble with the tough physical Scandinavian teams. Mexico was able to bounce back and defeat Ireland by a 2-1 score. They would then finish with a 1-1 draw with Italy to clinch first place. Mexico played some great football in the final games, but they didn’t take much out of the big home field advantage of playing in the United States, home of so many Mexican fans. It also benefited from a slow start from Italy, which has become a staple of them. At the time it was some of the best results Mexico had in a World Cup, but with recent successes, it has lost some luster.
6. 2010 World Cup (2nd place Group A)
Mexico got a good draw in the World Cup as they were place in the host’s Group. This meant Mexico played the opening game with South Africa. While Mexico was the better side for long stretches, they also suffered greatly defensively and the final 1-1 draw was just. Mexico then bounced back and got their first ever World Cup victory over a past champion when they defeated France 2-0. This was Mexico’s best game and became notorious as the game were France self-destructed at halftime. In their final game, they lost to Uruguay 1-0. The loss meant Mexico went to the tough side of the bracket and missed out on the Golden path that Uruguay took all the way to the semifinals. The worst is that a lot of the defeat came because coach Javier Aguirre started with older players like Cuauhtemoc Blanco and Guillermo Franco. It was a wasted opportunity that came back to haunt Mexico.
7. 2006 World Cup (2nd place Group D)
Mexico was seeded for the only time in the 2006 World Cup. Because of it, Mexico got one of the easiest groups with Iran, Angola and Portugal. Mexico had some tough times but were deserving winners of their opening game against Iran by a 3-1 score. Then Mexico proceeded to complicate themselves terribly by only getting a 0-0 tie against Angola. In the final game, Mexico lost 2-1 to an already qualified Portugal, and like 98 and 2002, had to depend on the other results to go through. Four points out of the easiest group meant that Mexico was having a terrible World Cup, but the Round of 16 game against Argentina was able to improve the overall tournament. That said, it was by far the worst of all seven group stages.