All Mexico needs to advance to the round of 16 is a point, but it will be going for all three points when it faces Sweden on Wednesday at the Ekaterinburg Arena.
It's not Mexico's style to play for a draw. It's not Juan Carlos Osorio's style. And it's playing with fire. Take a 0-0 into the 89th minute and concede a goal, and you could have a painful memory that sticks in the mind. Find an early goal, and you're in good shape.
This isn't the situation El Tri wanted to be in, but they couldn't do too much to avoid it. "For me, it's the group of death. We’re the only team not qualified with six points," forward Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez said Tuesday
After a 1-0 win against Germany and a 2-1 triumph over Korea, Mexico really should come out alive from what has retroactively become the group of death. If it does so, it'll be thanks to a game plan drawn up by Osorio that will border on aggressive rather than sitting back and hoping to squeeze a point out of the final clash.
The manager, famed for his rotations, made only one change from his squad that beat Germany against Korea. With Hector Herrera and Hector Moreno both carrying a yellow card and a potential knockout match to consider, there was speculation he may go for more changes this time around. However, he dismissed the idea that the yellow cards for the Hectors would have an influence on his game plan and said El Tri will go for the win as it always does.
"I think one of the virtues above all of Mexican players is they always have the desire to go out and play. First, we wouldn’t think differently. We’re going to go look for the three points," he said. "It’s definitely a factor to keep in mind, but it’s not important, nor has it been, nor will it be what defines our way of playing. We’re going to try to, within the game we identify with, have a great game with our structure, our performance and hopefully at the end get the result we all want."
That may involve making fewer rotations than Osorio would have planned when he drew up the plan for the tournament six months ago. On the other hand, the win against Germany could've been a bonus. It always seemed like the group would come down to this game for Mexico. Now, despite a historic triumph against Germany to open the tournament, everything will be decided Wednesday.
A Mexico exit at the group stage would be harsh, However, it's still possible. It doesn't seem that Mexico is concerned, though. The mood in the camp is loose. On Sunday, the team was playing basketball. Monday a singer visited training to perform some traditional tunes while Osorio joined in. Tuesday's walkthrough was open to the press for the first 15 minutes, and at least from afar looked positive and relaxed with players seeming buoyant and enjoying each other's company. Despite the magnitude of the moment, with Mexico on the cusp of either its best or worst World Cup finish in 40 years.
It's not simply about getting through, though. It's about the Mexican soccer identity. It's about paving the way for a future generation but also proving that the team in the present "show the world of football that Mexican football has a lot to contribute," as Osorio said Tuesday.
"I imagine that the best thing for Mexican soccer will be, like we talk about with the guys, competing with our strengths, with our game in a game that will be decisive not just for us for the group, for four national teams and hopefully impose ourselves in the game and through that get the result we all want, which is to win and pass to the next round. I imagine this would be the best thing for Mexican soccer," the manager said later.
And so Osorio will continue on with what he believes is best. Against a Sweden team that doesn't score often but doesn't let other teams score often, either, El Tri will deploy a game plan that sees it going all out in search of a third consecutive victory at the World Cup, rather than the draw that would get it through. Mexican soccer is better off with a manager who has the confidence to do so.