TAT’S ALL FOLKS TATA MARTINO took responsibility for a “huge failure” as his four year reign as Mexico boss ended in heartache.
His team belatedly came to the World Cup party with a stirring second half and came agonisingly close to overhauling second placed Poland.
Tata Martino’s Mexico tenure ended in heartbreak
Mexico crashed out of the World Cup at the group stage for the first time in eight World Cups
But they ultimately crashed out on goal difference and did not qualify for the last 16 for the first time in eight World Cups.
Martino’s contract as coach of ‘El Tri’ is now over and he admitted at the end of a dramatic night he does not expect to be staying on.
The Argentine said: “I have no reason to think the future will be different. The contract expired with the final whistle and there is nothing else to do.
“In eight World Cups this has never happened and I take responsibility for this huge failure. It’s a great sadness.”
Mexico had failed to score in their opening two games and it was the same story in the first half here – even though they were much improved.
But the goal their fans craved finally arrived within two minutes of the restart as a corner was swung over from the left and flicked on by Cesar Montes.
Henry Martin reacted quickly to turn the ball home from close range and suddenly there was hope.
Five minutes later the great escape was on as Luis Chavez lined up a free-kick 30 yards out and curled a sensational strike into the top corner with his left peg.
With Argentina winning the other game by the same scoreline, there was suddenly nothing to choose between Mexico and Poland in the race for second place.
The teams were level on goals scored and goal difference while the head-to-head between them finished goalless.
At that point second place would have been decided on fair play with Mexico having picked up more yellow cards and still going out.
Only once before has that happened, with Senegal the unlucky team four years ago.
Martino said: “That’s why we went for the third goal – we knew Poland had fewer yellows and that’s why we were out – unless many players were booked.”
Incredibly, had those been level they would have drawn lots to decide who will play France in the last 16 on Sunday.
The tension was unbearable as Mexico threw everything forward – but Hirving Lozano and sub Uriel Antuna both having goals ruled out for offside.
Saudi keeper Mohammed Al Owais was getting in the way of everything – including another blockbuster free-kick from Chavez.
However with Mexico committed to attack they left gaps at the back and Al Dawsri swapping passes with Hattan Bahbri before stroking past Guillermo Ochoa.
It was only a consolation goal for them but it felt like a devastating blow for Mexico.
Saudi boss Herve Renard – whose team famously beat Argentina in their first game – said: “Congratulations to my players, we did our best but it was difficult for us.
“We mustn’t forget what we did together. I’m proud of their World Cup.
“We were dreaming of reaching the last 16 for only the second time but we did not deserve it.”