Friday, June 21, 2024

Mexico in Numbers: Another brush with World Cup glory

Last week, Mexico beat Saudi Arabia in their last game of the group stage, but it wasn’t enough to win them a spot in the round of 16. The failure to advance this year was just one in a decades-long string of so-close-you-can-taste-it losses for El Tri, as the national team is known.

By points, Mexico tied with Poland for second place in the group; each team had a win (3 points), a draw (1 point) and a loss (0 points), for a total of 4 points. But Poland beat Mexico on goal differential, the number of goals scored by the team minus the goals scored against them during the group stage of the tournament. Poland’s goal differential was 0, while Mexico let in one more goal than they scored, for a final goal differential of -1.

Thanks to this year’s performance, Mexico is now the team with the most games lost in a World Cup (28) followed by Argentina with 23 losses and Germany with 24. Mexico has also joined the exclusive club of teams that have had more than 100 goals scored against them in World Cups: Mexican goalkeepers have failed to block 103 points since the World Cup began in 1930. The only other members of this club are Germany, which has been scored on 128 times, and Brazil, with 105 goals scored against them.

These records are actually perverse reminder of the Mexican team’s many brushes with greatness: El Tri ranks with the likes of soccer superpowers like Argentina, Brazil and Germany in losses partly because all four teams routinely qualify for the the soccer’s top competition. But unlike those teams, Mexico has yet to be a World Cup champion. (For hardcore El Tri fans, the 2014 documentary “Ilusión Nacional,” or “National Hope” in English, documents the Mexican selection’s ups and downs over the years.)

The farthest Mexico has made it was to the quarter-finals in 1970 and 1986, also the only two years in which Mexico has hosted the World Cup. This year, Mexico ranked 22 out of the 32 teams to qualify for the World Cup, in the middle of the pack of group stage participants who failed to qualify for the round of 16. But they’ll have another chance in 2026: as a co-host of the next World Cup (along with the US and Canada), Mexico automatically qualifies.

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