Mexico completely dominated El Salvador to end their 2022 World Cup Qualification with a 2-0 victory that officially punches Mexico’s ticket to the World Cup. Mexico was all but qualified after their away win on Sunday against Honduras, but didn’t make it official until their last win at home that ended the qualification process. The win and the combination of results had Mexico jumping to second place in CONCACAF Qualification, where they not only finished better than the United States but were tied in points with leader Canada at 28 points. Mexico will now wait for the World Cup draw tomorrow to see which group and rivals they are set to play in Qatar.
The first half started with Mexico making a number of changes knowing that it was their third match in the FIFA window. Hirving Lozano and Jesus Corona were benched in favor of Uriel Antuna and Alexis Vega. Also missing was suspended Hector Herrera with Erick Gutierrez taking his place. Also on defense, Gerardo Arteaga and Johan Vasquez sat so Jesus Gallardo and Nestor Araujo could make their first appearances in the final qualifying date. As expected Mexico totally dominated the first minutes against an El Salvador side that was sitting back completely. Antuna especially was giving fits to El Salvador’s defense. Off of a corner kick, Araujo went up to get a header that El Salvador’s goalkeeper, Mario Gonzalez was able to save. The rebound however fell into the path of Antuna, who got off a great right footed shot from close range that went past Gonzalez for the 1-0 lead. Mexico continued to dominate the match, as El Salvador kept defending and giving Mexico complete control of the possession despite trailing. Off of a corner kick, Cesar Montes got a wide open header but it went well wide. Raul Jimenez made a good run into the area and got past his defenders, but did one more move than was needed and lost the ball as Gonzalez came out to get it. Jimenez then made a great pass to Antuna, who got into the area before Ronald Rodriguez dropped him in the area and the referee gave a penalty kick. Jimenez stepped up to take the PK, and with a great placed right footed shot scored to make it 2-0. The first half ended and Mexico was cruising to the victory that would seal their ticket to the 2022 World Cup.
The second half started with El Salvador making a number of changes by subbing out Miguel Lemos, Styven Vasquez, and Eriq Zavaleta for Lizandro Claros, Joaquin Rivas, and Eduardo Vigil. After a scramble in the area, Carlos Rodriguez got off a shot from outside that forced Gonzalez to make a great save. A cross off of a corner kick found Montes getting a wide open header, but once again he went wide with his header. Mexico wasted an incredible chance when Antuna got off a bad shot that turned into a great pass, however Jimenez failed to connect with and it went wide. Jimenez had a wide open net and should have he connected with the ball, and it was a terrible miss from the Wolves forward. Off of a free kick, Vega got a shot that was close but went just wide. El Salvador subbed out Bryan Landaverde for Darwin Ceren. Mexico then made their first move by subbing out Raul Jimenez and Uriel Antuna for Henry Martin and Hirving Lozano. After a play, Bryan Tamacas injured himself which meant that El Salvador had to make their final sub and subbed in Eric Calvillo. Lozano had a chance to make a good play, but he got fouled hard by an El Salvador defender which was a constant for him. Mexico then subbed out Alexis Vega and Carlos Rodriguez for Jesus Corona and Luis Romo. After a great play between Corona and Romo, it ended with Romo getting a strong shot that was brilliantly saved by Gonzalez. Corona made a great play and then got off a great pass into the area that Martin failed to reach. Mexico then subbed out Cesar Montes for Hector Moreno. A longball into the area was just out of the reach of Jorge Sanchez. Mexico continued to dominate, but with the match all but decided and El Salvador just looking to prevent being scored on, they took off their foot off of the gas pedal. Henry Martin’s substitution for the Jimenez also was big hit for Mexico, as even a struggling Jimenez is overly superior to Martin. The match ended, and Mexico had qualified for the World Cup in Qatar, climbing all the way into second place in Concacaf.
Mexico closed out their World Cup campaign with the best match they have played in 2022. Mexico completely dominated a very weak El Salvador, and possibly should have won by more goals. They were more troubling aspects for Mexico however, as they keep having offensive struggles with key players like Raul Jimenez showing that they are far from being at their best level of play. Still, it’s notable that while Coach Gerardo Martino has been rightly criticized for their level of play all through the qualifiers, in the end a Mexico that never shined or showed their best level ended up tied with what everybody considers the best Canadian National Team in history and over a United States team that has a so called “Golden generation”. It shows the amount of pressure that Mexico’s National Team has on them, and also the high standard it has to live up in CONCACAF. Mexico will need to improve a lot to be considered a candidate to continue their streak of getting to the Round of 16 in every World Cup since 1994, but at least Martino and Mexico can start looking up to once again playing in the biggest competition in sports on planet earth.