Mexicans head for the knockout stage in Russia
● Mexico built on the momentum from their stunning victory over world champions Germany by overpowering South Korea 2-1 yesterday to take a giant step towards the World Cup last 16.
Carlos Vela put them ahead from the penalty spot in the 26th minute at Rostov Arena, which had been taken over by Mexico’s sea of fanatical supporters.
All-time top scorer Javier Hernandez sealed victory in the second half, finishing off an unstoppable move from breakout player Hirving Lozano.
It was Hernandez’s 50th goal for his country and his fourth strike at a World Cup, taking him level with Luis Hernandez as Mexico’s leading scorer in soccer’s global showpiece tournament.
Korea’s talismanic forward Son Heungmin struck a scorching consolation goal in stoppage time from outside the area.
Mexico will clinch their place in the next round if Germany fail to beat Sweden in the other Group F game later yesterday.
The hapless Koreans, who have no points after two matches, will be eliminated if Sweden draw or win against Germany.
“We came to Russia with a lot of criticism but we’re working hard and we have a lot of talent.
“We have humility but we beat Germany and South Korea and now we have to play against Sweden and stay cool and calm,” goalscorer Hernandez said.
“We cannot afford to get caught up in all this, we have to continue our job and stay humble, of course we should enjoy this but tomorrow we start working again.”
Mexico’s breakthrough came when captain Andres Guardado’s cross was blocked by a stray arm from Korean defender Jang Hyun-soo, and Vela kept his nerve from the spot, sending goalkeeper Cho Hyeon-woo the wrong way and stroking the ball home.
Lozano proved a constant threat to the Koreans whenever he came darting down either wing, blasting over in the first half and later having a goal-bound shot blocked by opposing captain Ki Sung-yueng.
His pace punished Korea, catching them on the break, allowing Hernandez to finish them off, beating a defender with a flick of his left foot and tucking the ball into the net with his right.