Chicharito Scores as Mexico Beat South Korea in 2018 World Cup

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistJune 23, 2018

Mexico's forward Javier Hernandez celebrates scoring their second goal during the Russia 2018 World Cup Group F football match between South Korea and Mexico at the Rostov Arena in Rostov-On-Don on June 23, 2018. (Photo by Khaled DESOUKI / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - NO MOBILE PUSH ALERTS/DOWNLOADS        (Photo credit should read KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images)
KHALED DESOUKI/Getty Images

Mexico moved closer to qualifying for the last 16 of the 2018 FIFA World Cup after beating South Korea 2-1 at the Rostov Arena in Russia on Saturday.

A Carlos Vela penalty and a 50th international goal for Javier 'Chicharito' Hernandez saw El Tri top Group F with a second win in a row following the 1-0 victory over holders Germany last time out.

Mexico can qualify for the knockout phase if Germany fail to beat Sweden later today.

Meanwhile, South Korea were condemned to an early exit after losing their opening two matches despite Heung-Min Son scoring a spectacular consolation strike in stoppage time.

   

Carlos Vela Finally Realising his Potential

It's taken him a while, but 29-year-old Carlos Vela finally appears ready to realise his obvious potential. The former Arsenal attacker has always possessed terrific pace, excellent technique, natural flair and a keen eye for goal.

Putting everything together, particularly on a big stage, has been Vela's problem. It's why things didn't work out in north London and why a promising spell with La Liga side Real Sociedad eventually petered out.

Based on his first two performances at this World Cup, though, Vela is at last maturing into the marquee talent he always promised to be. He was superb during the win over Germany and caught the eye against South Korea too:

Vela's combination with Javier Hernandez has given El Tri an enviable cutting edge at this tournament. The former's ability to play both provider and goalscorer has enhanced the fluidity of this forward line.

Vela took his goal well, despite being made to wait an age after Jang Hyun-soo was adjudged to have handled in the box.

Even so, the Los Angeles FC forward kept his cool to stroke home a decisive goal for a country not accustomed to scoring from the spot at a World Cup:

Vela's performances in Russia are making people take note and making them forget about his unfulfilled spell with the Gunners:

On current form, Vela could emerge as the surprise star of the tournament.

   

Pass-Happy Mexico Primed for Deep World Cup Run

El Tri have rightly earned plaudits for their enterprising play through two matches in Russia. A squad loaded with technical quality and attacking intent has responded brilliantly to the more possession-based game favoured by coach Juan Carlos Osorio.

There's an assurance and efficiency in possession, and a relaxed swagger was evident in the way Mexico worked their passing in Rostov:

South Korea had their moments but spent too long chasing shadows:

It's hardly a surprise El Tri have become so comfortable working the ball. Osorio has two accomplished schemers in the form of Andres Guardado and Hector Herrera in midfield.

They both kept the ball moving seamlessly between the lines, building attacks from deep with astute distribution. Neat, swift and incisive passing is getting the ball to match-winners such as Vela, Hernandez and Hirving Lozano quickly.

It's a combination sure to make Mexico feared as the competition progresses. A possible last-16 draw against favourites Brazil, depending on where each finish in their respective groups, will still have Osorio concerned, though.

Alternatively, Mexico could top Group F and face the runner-up in Group E, likely either Switzerland or Serbia. Neither nation looks equipped to deal with El Tri's progressive passing and pace up top.

   

South Korea Pay for Over-Reliance on Heung-Min Son

Entering the tournament, there was no doubt Heung-Min Son was South Korea's lone star player. Even so, his country has paid for an overreliance on the Tottenham Hotspur forward.

It was a familiar story against Mexico, as Son carried his nation's threat all by himself. At times, the 25-year-old looked like he might be able to handle the burden.

Son drew Mexico goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa into a double save during the first half. His pace and movement posed consistent danger even as El Tri dominated the opening 45 minutes.

There was some justice when Son netted his country's first goal at this World Cup in spectacular fashion.

ITV Football has the goal for UK audiences:

Meanwhile, U.S. viewers can see it on Fox Soccer:

The fierce curler from outside the box capped a determined display from a gifted attacker who never stopped trying to drag his team to a positive result.

An early exit from the World Cup puts Son's impending mandatory military service into sharper focus—all able-bodied South Korean men are required to serve for two years, typically starting before they turn 28.

The Asian Games in August gives the Tottenham ace a chance to postpone his army duty, according to Football.London's Alasdair Gold, provided Son can inspire South Korea to a gold medal in Indonesia.

Based on this performance, he's good enough to do it.

   

What's Next?

Mexico face Sweden at the Ekaterinburg Arena in their final group match on Wednesday. South Korea will play Germany at the same time in Kazan.

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