Mexico face Solomon Islands in a “must win” game to close out their group stage. Mexico is a win away from guaranteeing a place in the knockout stage, but anything besides that would eliminate them. They are lucky that they would be facing what most consider the worst team in this World Cup, who was crushed by Italy and Paraguay in their first two games. If Mexico wins, they would be the first and only team in CONCACAF to get a victory in this World Cup, as well as the only one to qualify. Canada, Haiti and the United States were all eliminated in the group stage.
While Coach Marco Antonio Ruiz said that Mexico’s goal was to have Mexico finish as at least a semifinalist team, few things shown have made Mexico prove they are at that level. Mexico had a rocky start to the tournament with a scoreless tie against Paraguay. In that match they went down to 10 men after Eugenio Pizzuto was harshly red carded. Then Mexico battled to get a tie in injury tie against Italy, only for them to give up a goal and lose 2-1. Mexico sits at third in the group, but while the games between Italy and Paraguay have been close affairs, the games those teams played against Solomon Islands were easy routs. Solomon Islands were expected to be the worst team of the group, and they have proven people right on that belief. Should Mexico play to their level, they should do the same against them and not doing so would be an historic failure for Mexico, easily the worst result in any youth competitions.
If the Solomon Islands have anything to look forward to, they might do so in coach Marco Antonio Ruiz. As a coach he already wasted an opportunity to thrash an Oceania opponent on the world stage. In the 2017 U-20 World Cup, Mexico was grouped with Vanuatu ,and while most people expected them to crush the island nation, they only won 3-2 and with a last minute goal from Edson Alvarez. The main difference was that the Vanuatu team was better than most expected. While second place finisher Venezuela crushed them 7-0 in their final game, they also troubled Germany and just like Mexico they “only” won by a 3-2 score too. Solomon Islands so far hasn’t shown this, and Italy could have done an even bigger scoreline had their players not wanted all to selfishly score goals themselves.
Mexico has stumbled in the past in situations like this before, and yet, they are heavily favored this time to get to the Round of 16. While many people expected Mexico would need to crush Solomon Islands to qualify as one of the four best third placed teams, results have everybody knowing that a win by any score would get Mexico through. While this was the situation since the end of the Italy game, now there is no doubt and Mexico should be calm enough to know the win is enough and not fall into desperation. That being said, nothing but a crushing win, like the other rivals did, will be enough for Mexico to get to their level. Also by results, a big goal difference could have Mexico able to get second place in the group and a supposed better matchup in the Round of 16 if Paraguay loses against Italy. At the end, the two-time U-17 World Cup winner has to show their might on Sunday, and the Solomon Islands is the perfect rival for Mexico to show if Ruiz’s goals had any validity or they were just empty platitudes.
Date: Sunday, November 3
Time: 3:00pm Pacific, 5:00pm Central, 6:00pm Eastern
Venue: Estádio Kléber Andrade, Cariacica, Brazil
TV: Telemundo (US-Español), Fox Sports 2 (US-English)
Listings via LiveSoccerTV.com