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Are miserable Mexico finished? Winners, losers & ratings as El Tri near worst World Cup exit since 1978 after Argentina defeat

5:00 PM EST 11/26/22
Hirving Lozano react Mexico Argentina World Cup 2022
Mexico are staring down their earliest tournament exit in more than 40 years

El Quinto Partido has never looked further away.

A fifth game?! Nope, after Saturday night, there seems to be little chance of Mexico even reaching a fourth.

El Tri are on the brink of infamy after their 2-0 loss to Argentina at Lusail Stadium. They're close to becoming the first Mexico team since 1978 to not reach the knockout stage. Just as bad, they haven't scored a goal yet.

With just one point through two games, Mexico now face a must-win game against Saudi Arabia, and even three points there might not be enough.

They were undone on Saturday by Lionel Messi, the Argentina legend who scored the go-ahead goal to keep his own nation's tournament hopes alive.

Mexico had done a fantastic job of quieting Messi's magic until the 64th minute, when they lost him. Half a yard of space, one low shot and, boom, three points. It felt impossible for a toothless Gerardo Martino-led group to respond at the other end.

The embattled coach has one game to prevent this World Cup from becoming an all-time lowlight. Never say never, but on current form, a turnaround feels unlikely.

  • Cesar Montes Mexico Argentina World Cup 2022

    The Winners

    The centre-backs:

    If there's one group you can give some credit to, it's this one.

    The trio of Hector Moreno, Cesar Montes and Nestor Araujo did their best against an Argentina team that can rip teams up so easily. Both goals came as a result of midfielders failing to press and neither should be pinned on a defensive group that gave it their all.

    Along with midfielder Luis Chavez, those three are likely the only three that will come out of this feeling okay about how they played. It wasn't a perfect performance by any means, but it was solid enough to keep Mexico in the game for 64 minutes against a team that could have destroyed them.

    Atmosphere:

    At the World Cup, atmospheres are varied. Allegiances are split, and that’s not even considering the neutrals, executives and dignitaries in the crowd. It’s similar to any neutral site game. A Champions League final doesn’t have the same bounce as, say, a big game at Anfield or the Santiago Bernabeu. 

    But this game, boy did it have bounce. 

    Hours before kickoff, fans were in their seats, chanting, drumming and partying. It looked and felt like a big game and, throughout it all, you felt the tension from the 80,000+ in attendance. Every big play was met by deafening noise, and every referee whistle met with a chorus of boos.

    And Messi's goal? You'll never hear anything like it: half-wonder, half-joy, all noise.

    This is what a World Cup should feel like, and these two countries do it better than most. 

  • Andres Guardado Hector Herrera Mexico Argentina World Cup 2022

    The Losers

    Andres Guardado:

    That couldn’t have been what anyone had in mind.

    Facing a highly-favored Argentina, Martino turned to two experienced warriors in the midfield. And, by and large, Hector Herrera and Andres Guardado looked like their old selves. 

    That is, until Guardado’s game ended unceremoniously with an apparent injury. 

    He became the sixth player to feature in five World Cups, but this night will be forgettable for Guardado, who didn’t make it until half-time before his body failed him. He's a Mexico legend, one of the best this country has produced but, unfortunately, he may never get to show it again on the big stage.

    An emotional hug between Herrera and Guardado in the tunnel at half-time was heartbreaking.

    Mexico strikers:

    Talk about a lack of faith…

    After all of the chatter about who should start, Martino looked at his options and said “none of them”.

    No Raul Jimenez, no Henry Martin, no Rogelio Funes Mori. No need. 

    Instead, he set his team up in a 5-3-2 with wingers Hirving Lozano and Alexis Vega starting up top. To Martino’s credit, it kind of worked, at least defensively. But where do Mexico go from here? Is Jimenez healthy enough to contribute? Can either Martin or Funes Mori be trusted?

    All signs point to no. 

    Gerado 'Tata' Martino:

    Prior to the game, Mexico's players were announced one by one. Each received a round of applause from a pretty pro-Mexico crowd, with Guillermo Ochoa's ear-splitting ovation the loudest of them all.

    Then came Martino's name and, as expected, the chorus of boos.

    This result will do little to quiet that negative noise, and there may only be one game left for fans to get the jeers out.

    Martino's era is nearing an end, one way or another, but this defeat, to his home country no less, will only worsen his legacy, even if Mexico were up against it from the start.

  • Guillermo Ochoa Mexico Argentina World Cup 2022

    Mexico: Defense

    Guillermo Ochoa (5/10):

    Could he have done better on the goals? Maybe, but he can never be blamed for a World Cup defeat given his reputation.

    Jesus Gallardo (6/10):

    Was Mexico's best player in the opener, and was solid once again. Di Maria got him a few times but, well, he's Di Maria.

    Hector Moreno (7/10):

    A good game for a player that has his detractors. Helped limit Messi and Lautaro Martinez for nearly the whole match.

    Cesar Montes (8/10):

    Probably Mexico's best player on the day. A good performance.

    Nestor Araujo (6/10):

    Close to a red card-worthy tackle on Acuna, but he survived it. Physical as can be against a tough Argentina team.

    Kevin Alvarez (6/10):

    An okay performance from the young Pachuca defender, who didn't look out of his depth, but didn't excel either.

  • Luis Chavez Mexico Argentina World Cup 2022

    Midfield

    Hector Herrera (6/10):

    Was okay for a bit but faded and was caught out on Messi's goal. Doesn't seem to have what Mexico needs anymore.

    Andres Guardado (6/10):

    Was doing just fine until his injury. A sad exit for a real legend.

    Luis Chavez (7/10):

    Mexico's best midfielder, more than earned his spot in the team with an energetic performance.

  • Hirving Lozano Mexico Argentina World Cup 2022

    Attack

    Hirving Lozano (6/10):

    It was Chucky vs. the entire Argentina defense over and over again. Even with his talent, it was an impossible ask.

    Alexis Vega (6/10):

    Defended the whole game, but did test Emiliano Martinez with Mexico's best shot. Other than that, a whole lot of pressing.

  • Gerardo Martino Mexico Argentina World Cup 2022

    Subs & Manager

    Erick Guttierez (5/10):

    Replaced Guardado and was done by Fernandez on his golazo.

    Raul Jimenez (5/10):

    Came in when Mexico changed systems. Didn't add much as Mexico held on for dear life.

    Uriel Antuna (5/10):

    Like the rest of Mexico's attackers, ineffective.

    Roberto Alvarado (5/10)

    Running out of ways to say that Mexico's attack didn't do any attacking.

    Gerardo Martino (6/10):

    To his credit, the gameplan was right when it came to quieting Argentina, but there was no consideration to how Mexico would ever come close to a goal.