Mexico Second Round Curse: Will El Tri Break Their World Cup Hoodoo Against Brazil?

Mexico fans cheer during the game against Sweden at the Ekaterinburg Arena in Ekaterinburg on June 27, 2018. Hector Retamal/AFP/Getty Images

Relief was the overwhelming feeling for Mexico fans as their team scraped out of Group F, but El Tri may well regret finishing second.

Mexico looked poised to top the group after picking up maximum points in the first two games. However, a 3-0 drubbing at the hands of Sweden meant only South Korea's surprising win against Germany saw them qualify.

Mexico fans cheer during the game against Sweden at the Ekaterinburg Arena in Ekaterinburg on June 27, 2018. Hector Retamal/AFP/Getty Images

However, while winning the group would have seen Mexico face Switzerland, Brazil now await El Tri in Samara on July 2.

In normal circumstances, facing the five-time world champions would mean the underdogs have very little to lose. However Mexico have a huge burden on their shoulders, as they have not won a knockout game at the World Cup in 32 years.

Despite reaching round of 16 stage in each of the last seven World Cups, El Tri last made it to the quarterfinals in 1986, when they hosted the tournament and overcame Bulgaria 2-0 in the first game of the knockout stage.

Mexico eventually lost 4-1 on penalties to West Germany in the quarterfinals. They have not reached the last eight since.

In 1990, they were banned from entering the tournament after knowingly using at least four overage players at an Under 20 tournament two years earlier. Ever since El Tri returned to soccer's biggest stage four years later, the round of 16 has been a sorry tale for them.


Mexico's return to the World Cup saw them given a 'Group of Death' that included eventual runners-up Italy. The reward for qualifying was a tie against Bulgaria at the Giants Stadium, where an Alberto Garcia Aspe first-half penalty canceled out Hristo Stoichkov's opener.

After the two sides couldn't be separated in extra time, however, Aspe was one of three Mexico players who failed to convert their spot kicks. Bulgaria won 3-1 on penalties.


Inspired by Luis Hernandez's goals, Mexico finished level on points with Holland, but an inferior goal difference–they conceded five goals in the three group games–saw them go through as runners-up.

That meant that while Holland faced Yugoslavia, Mexico took on Germany. Hernandez's fourth goal of the tournament gave El Tri the lead early in the second half, before Jurgen Klinsmann equalized with 15 minutes remaining. With the game seemingly set for extra time, Oliver Bierhoff struck with four minutes left to break Mexican hearts.

Mexican forward Luis Hernandez celebrates after putting Mexico 1-0 up against Germany in their round of 16 tie at the 1998 World Cup. Germany would come back and win 2-1 with Oliver Bierhoff scoring the winner four minutes from time. Omar Torres/AFP/Getty Images


With confidence running high after winning a group containing Italy and Croatia, Mexico arrived to their round-of-16 clash against the U.S. as favorites.

However, as far as Mexico fans are concerned, the first World Cup meeting between the two rivals was memorable for all the wrong reasons. Brian McBride put the U.S. 1-0 up early in the game and when Landon Donovan doubled their advantage halfway through the second half, the scoreline became the moniker the rivalry has been known by ever since.

"Dos a Cero"—Spanish for 2-0—are the words no Mexico fan wants to hear.


Having unconvincingly scraping through a relatively poor group containing Portugal, Angola and Iran, a round-of-16 date with Argentina awaited.

Rafael Marquez and Hernan Crespo exchanged early goals and when the two teams could not be separated in 90 minutes, the prospect of Mexico upsetting one of the tournament's favorite no longer appeared as remote as they had done at kickoff.

Maxi Rodriguez, however, had other ideas. The Argentine midfielder produced one of the greatest-ever World Cup goals to send Mexico packing yet again.


Argentina and Mexico met at the same stage four years later in South Africa after El Tri again finished second in their group—in fact they only qualified on goal difference.

There was no repeat of the resistance of four years, as Carlos Tevez and Gonzalo Higuain scored twice in the first half to give Argentina a commanding lead. The former, whose first goal was marred by suspicion of offside, then added a second after break, before Javier Hernandez netted a late consolation goal.


Arjen Robben wins a controversial penalty in the 94th minute against Mexico in the round of 16 of the 2014 World Cup. Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

If previous eliminations were hard to take, defeat to the Netherlands four years ago took the agony to a whole new level. Inspired by Guillermo Ochoa's saves, Mexico beat Croatia and Cameroon in the group stage and held hosts Brazil to a stalemate draw.

Ochoa was again brilliant in the round of 16, keeping the Dutch at bay after Giovani Dos Santos had given Mexico the lead and put them within touching distance of the quarter finals until it all spectacularly unraveled.

Wesley Snejider equalized with 88 minutes played, before Arjen Robben's theatrics won a very dubious—many would argue non-existent—penalty in the fourth minute of injury time, which Klaas-Jan Huntelaar converted.

Mexico Second Round Curse: Will El Tri Break Their World Cup Hoodoo Against Brazil? | Sports