Mexico's Under-20 national team needed a big result Friday to have any shot of qualifying for the knockout stage of the FIFA U-20 World Cup, and it got just that. Now, manager Sergio Almaguer's side has to sit back and hope it has done enough to carry on into the knockout stage.
Mexico defeated Mali 4-1 in their Group D finale in Gazientep, Turkey, giving itself a great chance to qualify as a top-four third-place finisher in the competition. Marco Bueno, Jesus Corona, Jorge Escoboza and Uvaldo Luna scored for Mexico, which has three points and a +1 goal differential and five goals scored.
Mexico still has to hope for the right set of results on Saturday in order to carry on in the World Cup's knockout stage. If things don't fall Mexico's way, it will join the United States on the outside looking in and with an early ticket home.
Luna's goal could prove to be the difference maker, with his tally in the 86th minute providing the goal that brought Mexico ahead of Ghana and into third place in the table of third-place finishers with two groups still yet to complete the round.
Mexico took its first lead of the tournament in the 2nd minute, as Bueno got his side off to a dream start. Corona was then denied of a point-blank volley in the ninth minute, as heroic Mali goalkeeper Germain Berthe robbed the Monterrey starlet with a diving stop.
Corona got his goal just minutes later, though, as he headed a Jorge Espericueta corner kick across the goal mouth and inside the near post in the 13th minute to double Mexico's lead.
Bueno was denied a second in the 49th minute, bouncing off a defender on a breakaway but having his attempt from the edge of the area stopped by a sliding Berthe, and Berthe came up again to rob Corona in the 54th minute, with the goalkeeper sprawling to tip a close-range header off Espericueta's cross over the bar.
Mali pulled one back in the 62nd minute with a wondrous volley from long range, as Samba Diallo had a bounce sit up for him about 25 yards out. Mexico and FC Dallas goalkeeper Richard Sanchez was able to get a hand to it, but he could only push it off his post and in.
Escoboza missed a golden chance to restore Mexico's two-goal edge in the 67th minute with a close-range header that Berthe managed to get a touch on to keep out of the goal, but Escoboza struck three minutes later, running onto a flicked-on header from Bueno off a goal kick, lost his shoe and finished on the breakaway to make it 3-1.
The Texas-born Luna then struck in the dying minutes to create some breathing room among third-place finishers, tallying from inside the area to spark a celebration on the sidelines and put his side in an advantageous position.