Mexico defeated the Solomon Islands by a score of 8-0 to qualify to the Round of 16 in the 2019 U17 World Cup. Mexico scored early, and knowing that a win got them through, sat back and were able to contain a Solomon Islands team that pressed hard for 45 minutes but wilted in the second half. Mexico ended up with the biggest scoreline in a game so far in the 2019 U17 World Cup and qualified as the best third placed team of the four that got through out of the group stages. Mexico will now return to Gama to face Japan in the Round of 16. Mexico will have a tough challenge and will have to face it with one less day of rest, but should they get through Japan they would have the better side of the bracket, facing off against the winner of the South Korea vs. Angola match.
With a couple of changes into the starting lineup, Mexico was heavily favored to get the win, and it didn’t take long for them to open the score. Two minutes in, Bruce El-Mesmari went alone through the left side of the field, cut past a defender, and found Efrain Alvarez in the middle. Alvarez one timed his left footed shot past Solomon Islands’ goalkeeper Davidson Malam. With the 1-0 lead Mexico was guaranteed a place in the knockouts stages, so the team was able to calm their fears early on. A couple of minutes later, Solomon Islands would have a chance when Raphael Leai was able to go through the right side of the field and get off a shot that Mexico’s keeper Eduardo Garcia was able to stop. Solomon Islands kept threatening through that side, as Jose Ruiz wasn’t having a good start to the game. Mexico had a good chance when Luis Puente went through and had a good opportunity, but his shot went wide. Later, El-Mesmari forced a save out of Malam. The Solomon Islands team was pressuring well as Mexico sat back and waited for them to tire out. Unfortunately it was with lots of bad passes and a lack of cohesion in turning plays around, but most of them lead to almost no danger because of the low level of play from the side from Oceania. Then in the 30th minute, El-Mesmari got a free kick and his shot was badly handled by Malam, whose rebound fell to Gustavo Armas. Armas’ shot went straight to Jesus Gomez, and Gomez tapped it in for the 2-0. Almost immediately after the goal, Alvarez found El-Mesmari, who got off a left footed shot that hit the post. In the final minutes of the first half, Alvarez made a great lob that found Luis Puente, who went wide open into the area and blasted a right footed shot past Malam for the 3-0 lead. The halftime whistle blew, and although Mexico hadn’t had the most aesthetically pleasing half, they had a comfortable lead towards the second half.
The second half started with Israel Luna getting subbed in for Josue Martinez in a clearly offensive move. It didn’t take long for him to make an impact, when after a good combination with Puente he went against the keeper, but couldn’t get off his shot before Malam was able to take the ball from him. It looked like Mexico had scored their fourth goal when Luis Puente took a shot from a weird angle and Malam bobbled it into his own net. The ref though went to VAR (something that would be extremely common in this second half) and ruled that Puente had handled the ball, and called it back in a controversial call. In the next offensive play, a great combination play was finished by Israel Luna to score the 4-0. Gustavo Armas had crossed the ball to Luna, who was barely onside and the play went to VAR, where it took four minutes before it was allowed. While it was a somewhat tough decision, it took too much time to be decided. A minute after play was restarted, a Mexican cross was badly cleared by the Solomon Islands defense straight to Armas, who got off a shot that was blocked by a Solomon Islands defender. The ball then fell straight into the path of Alvarez, who got off a rocket left footed shot inside the area for the 5-0 and his third goal of the tournament and second of this match. While the game was a foregone conclusion from the start, the last minutes made it clear off the field as the Solomon Islands players were totally deflated emotionally and physically spent. After a cross into the area, Luna got off a shot that hit the post, the second time it had gone that way for Mexico in the game. Luna came close again whe he got to a ball in the area, and his shot got blocked by Malam but straight to Luna. Unfortunately for him, his left footed shot went wide. Luis Puente was subbed out for Ali Avila in Mexico’s second substitution. Within seconds, Alvarez made a cross and found Avila who headed it past Malam, after he made a terrible move to get to the ball. The goal was called offside but after going to VAR, it was given for the 6-0 in what has to be a record setting goal after a substitution, if not of all U17 World Cups, at least for this edition. Off a free kick, Alvarez sent a cross into the area that found Avila, whose header fell straight to Eugenio Pizzuto and Luna. Luna got to it and shot it, but defender Leon Kofana stopped it on the line and then stopped the rebound shot from Pizzuto. Unfortunately for him, the ball fell to Jesus Gomez, whose shot went into the net for the 7-0 and his second goal of the game. In the 89th minute, Luna pressured Kofana to steal a ball, easily took on Malam and went past him to score in the open net the 8-0 and his second goal of the game. In injury time, after a scramble in the area, Kofana came close to scoring a goal but Garcia came out and made a save. The game ended and as expected, Mexico had won and qualified to the next stage of the tournament.
Mexico lived up to the expectations before the match and won to qualify for the Round of 16. While it was expected against the worst team of the U17 World Cup (now officially as they finished in last place), Mexico showed some good things and were also able to manage physically knowing they had a huge test for them on Wednesday. Unlike this game, Mexico will not be favored against the Japanese team, who got seven points and looked a lot better so far than Mexico. It will be a huge jump in quality for Mexico, but if Mexico can get past the test, they would be in the more favored bracket. If anything has shown in U17 World Cups, it’s that teams can improve a lot from one game to the next. Mexico will hope this trend continues for them as they get their first win in an U17 World Cup since the 2015 Quarterfinals against Ecuador.