Mexico finally got it going on in the 2023 U17 World Cup as they crushed New Zealand by a 4-0 score and booked their ticket in the Round of 16. Mexico played their best match so far, ending up in second place in the group with the victory coupled with Venezuela’s defeat against Germany. Mexico also overcame a wet field that delayed the start of the match by 45 minutes after heavy rain and thunder during the national anthems. Mexico will now play in the Round of 16 against a tough rival in Mali.
The first half started with Adrian Fernandez taking Tahuel Jimenez’s spot in the starting 11 as well as Daniel Vazquez starting instead of Manuel Sanchez, the only moves from the Venezuela match. Three minutes into the match, Luke Supyk got past Mexico’s goalkeeper Paolo Bedolla and then shot into the almost empty net, but a diving Isaac Martinez was able to get to the ball and clear it almost off the line to make the save after another bad play from Bedolla in the tournament. A great pass in the area to Stephano Carrillo was badly handled, as he tried to control the ball instead of one time shooting, and ended up losing a great chance after he failed to control the ball. Although New Zealand had the best early chance, Mexico took control of the possession in the match quickly. After a long ball into the area, Bedolla tried to clear it but instead kicked it right to Luis Navarrete and the ball got deflected into the path of Mark Watson, but his lob towards the empty net went wide in Bedolla’s second mistake of the match. A great combination play outside in the area ended with Gael Alvarez getting off a shot that was almost deflected into the net. On the ensuing corner kick, Javen Romero got off a header but it was saved by New Zealand’s goalkeeper Matt Foord. After a longball went to Carrillo, he got into the area and hit a close range shot, but it was blocked by a defender. After New Zealand failed to clear a ball, Alvarez was able to get to it in the area and get off a left footed shot but it went wide. Fidel Barajas then got the ball, battled to get past two New Zealand players, and got off a great strong right footed shot from outside the area. The ball went past the hands of Foord and into the net to score, giving Mexico the 1-0 lead. It was a deserved lead for a Mexican side that had taken control of the match and were the better side. A longball then had Fernandez getting into the area, but his cross that turned into a shot was saved by Foord and was ruled to be offside. The first half ended, and for the first time in the tournament, Mexico went into the halftime break with a lead.
The second half started with both teams coming out with the same 11 they started the match with. A minute into the half, New Zealand lost the ball and gave Mexico a chance in attack. Carrillo got a pass in the area into the path of Adrian Fernandez, who got off a low right footed shot past Foord that went into the net to score the goal that gave Mexico the 2-0 lead. It looked to be a key goal, as the match now looked a lot safer for Mexico in the search for their ticket to the knockout stages. Later, Barajas got the ball in the area but his shot went right to Foord. Vazquez then found Brandon Lomeli in the area, but his right footed shot went wide. Lomeli would make up for it though when he made a great run into the area and then sent a great pass towards Stephano Carrillo, and his one time left footed shoot went past Foord from close range to score and give Mexico the 3-0 lead. It was a great play from Lomeli and a great finish from Carrillo in the goal that looked to have killed the match, giving Mexico the three key points. New Zealand subbed out Nick Murphy and Stipe Ukich for Nathan Walker and Gabriel Sloane-Rodrigues. Mexico meanwhile subbed out Gael Alvarez for Tahiel Jimenez. Marley Leuluai took a shit that Bedolla saved. A cross from Fernandez almost got deflected into the net as it went over the head of Foord, but it went wide. New Zealand then subbed out Noah Charles for Jesper Edwards. After a great pass into the area, Barajas got a left footed shot past Foord, but it went just wide and unfortunately for Mexico, nobody could get to the ball for a tap in goal. Later, Mexico subbed out Adrian Fernandez and Luis Ortiz for Jose Suarez and Jose Urias. After a longball into the area, Carrillo was brought down by Foord and the referee called for penalty kick. Stephano Carrillo stepped up to take the PK and scored it past Foord to give Mexico the 4-0 lead. Not only does this win gave Mexico the ticket to the next round but the goal difference added to the loss by Venezuela by a 3-0 score to Germany, meant Mexico climbed up to second place in the group. New Zealand subbed out Adam Watson and Matthew D’Hotman for Anaru Cassidy and Ryan Lee. With the match settled, Mexico subbed out their more important players in Stephano Carrillo and Fidel Barajas for Mateo Levy and Francisco Valenzuela. A cross into the area found Supyk, but his close range shot was brilliantly saved by Bedolla. Urias then found Levy in the area, but his shot was blocked by a defender. Valenzuela then got off a good left footed shot that was saved by Foord. The last minutes had New Zealand trying to get a goal, but Mexico was able to keep them scoreless and grabbed the win that got them through to the Round of 16.
In the most important match of the group stage, Mexico finally came through with their best performance, albeit against the weakest team. Still Mexico dominated the match, was clearly the better team, and got a great 4-0 victory that has the team finishing in second place in the group. Still although Mexico avoided a matchup against Argentina, they will have a tough opponent in Mali. Not only did Mali had a great group stage with great victories against Uzbekistan and Canada, but in the match they lost against Spain they had been the better side until they went down to 10 players. Mali is also a bogey team for Mexico in World Cups, as they eliminated Mexico in the group stage of the 1997 U17 World Cup with a 3-1 defeat. More recently, they gave Mexico a huge setback that ended up costing them dearly in the 2013 U20 World Cup, when they won their opener by a 2-0 score in a match where Mexico went down to 10 players and in where they would eventually end up eliminated in the group stage with a side that had players like Hirving Lozano, Erick Gutierrez, and Orbelin Pineda. Yet it could be a perfect situation for some payback, especially as Mexico has improved a lot in youth teams and especially from the 97 performance. It will be tough, but it is what it is. The best news is that Mexico finally clicked in Indonesia.