Mexico Escape to World Cup Knockout Stage Despite 3-0 Loss to Sweden

Gianni Verschueren@ReverschPassFeatured ColumnistJune 27, 2018

YEKATERINBURG, RUSSIA - JUNE 27:  Andreas Granqvist of Sweden celebrates with teammates after scoring his team's second goal during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group F match between Mexico and Sweden at Ekaterinburg Arena on June 27, 2018 in Yekaterinburg, Russia.  (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)
Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

Sweden shocked Mexico during Wednesday's 2018 FIFA World Cup, turning Group F on its head with a 3-0 win. Germany's loss against South Korea meant Mexico escaped by the skin of their teeth, however, advancing as the runner-up.

Ludwig Augustinsson and Andreas Granqvist scored for the Europeans, while Edson Alvarez also added to the total with an own goal.

Here are the key takeaways from this match.

       

High-Flying Swedes Should Be Feared in Knockout Stages

Sweden beat France in qualifying and were responsible for the absence of European giants Italy and the Netherlands, knocking them out in the play-offs and finishing ahead of them in the group stages, respectively.

Somehow, they still came into the tournament under the radar, but with a win over the on-fire Mexicans and a last-kick defeat against the defending champions, it's no longer possible to overlook Sweden.

This team is disciplined, rarely makes mistakes and has a number of options on the counter-attack. Sweden do a great job defending set pieces and enter the knockout stages with all kinds of momentum after this impressive win.

Top contenders would want to avoid them in the knockout stages, as their compact style of play is the stuff of nightmares for more technical sides.

   

Ochoa's Heroics Vital to Mexico's Knockout Stage Hopes

Out of all of Mexico's top stars, there was only one player who stood out on Wednesday, and that was goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa. He may have conceded three goals, but the Swedes could have scored a lot more if not for his first-half heroics.

As noted by Eurosport UK, the 32-year-old lives for this stage:

El Tri should bounce back from this flat performance, which can in part be explained by the fact they entered the match with six points already, and teams rarely fail to qualify with such a total:

But even at their best, Mexico have weaknesses, especially on the defensive end. Sweden also highlighted some issues with set pieces, overcrowding the box and nearly taking advantage of the resulting confusion.

Ochoa was there to deny them time and time again. While he could have done better on Sweden's first goal, there was nothing he could do about the other two.

The veteran stopper will be key in the knockout stages, where El Tri have failed to win a match in the last six editions of the tournament.

    

Despite Loss, No Tweaks Needed for El Tri

Mexico were horrendous on Wednesday, but in part, it came down to simple tactics and playing style. Their counter has been an enormous weapon so far in the tournament, and the Swedes happen to sit further back and gun for the counter themselves―they never gave El Tri the space they need.

Other teams may see this and opt for a similar approach, but with a likely date with Brazil in the next round, Mexico won't have to worry about that just yet. The South Americans love to make the play themselves and should provide El Tri with all the space they need.

Things could get tricky against Switzerland or Serbia, but both sides have very aggressive full-backs―Ricardo Rodriguez and Aleksandar Kolarov, respectively―who will leave space for the counter behind them. Either way, it's a solid tactical matchup for Mexico, who don't need to panic after the loss against Sweden.

           

What's Next?

The round of 16 will start on June 30. Mexico will play on July 2 and Sweden a day later.

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