Javier Hernandez scored his 50th international goal as Mexico built on the momentum from their stunning victory over Germany by overpowering South Korea on Saturday to take a giant step towards the last 16.
Carlos Vela put them ahead from the penalty spot in the 26th minute at the Rostov Arena, which had been taken over by Mexico’s fanatical supporters.
All-time top scorer Hernandez sealed victory in the second half, finishing off an excellent counter-attack inspired by Hirving Lozano.
It was Hernandez’s fourth strike at a World Cup, taking him level with Luis Hernandez as Mexico’s leading scorer in the tournament.
South Korea’s talismanic forward Son Heung-min struck a scorching consolation goal in stoppage time from outside the area.
The Koreans have no points after two matches and have only won one of their past 11 World Cup fixtures.
“We came to Russia with a lot of criticism but we’re working hard and 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,” 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.”
As the game kicked off Mexico fans sang “We are the home team” and with green shirts dotted all over the stadium and rousing chants of “Ole!” bellowing around the arena every time their side passed the ball, it was hard to disagree.
Conditioned by the dry heat that has been a feature of every game at the Rostov Arena, Mexico did not quite have the same thrust and energy as against Germany although they still controlled most of the play and looked far more dangerous.
South Korea improved on their opening defeat by Sweden although their main tactic consisted of searching for Son with long balls.
The closest they came to scoring in the first half was with a header from a corner which Mexico goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa tipped over the bar.
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 Hyun-woo the wrong way and stroking the ball home.
The spot-kick means more penalties have been awarded in Russia than in the entire 2014 tournament. This is partly due to VAR, with six penalties given after video reviews, although technology was not required here.
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 goalbound shot blocked by Ki Sung-yueng.
His remarkable pace punished Korea, catching them out 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. The only concern for Mexico will be their defence, which again looked capable opf shipping goals against more potent attacks than Korea’s.
Mexico could face Serbia, Switzerland or Brazil in the last 16, with the prospect of a tie against Belgium or England in the quarter-finals.
Opta's statistical pointers
- Mexico have won back to back matches at the World Cup for the first time since winning their first two matches at the 2002 World Cup.
- South Korea have lost their last four World Cup matches; their joint-worst losing run at the World Cup, also losing four between 1986 and 1990.
- Mexico have scored 10 penalties at the World Cup – only France, Germany and Spain have scored more penalties than they have in competition history.
- Javier Hernandez scored his 50th goal for Mexico, becoming the first player in the history of the Mexican national team to score 50 goals.
- Javier Hernandez has scored four goals at the World Cup, a joint-record for Mexico along with Luis Hernandez.
- In the first half, Son Heung-min had six shots (inc. blocks) – more than South Korea managed in the entirety of their first match against Sweden.
- Carlos Vela’s penalty was the 14th taken at this year’s World Cup – one more than was taken in the entirety of the 2014 World Cup (13).
- Son Heung-Min’s 90th minute consolation goal for South Korea was his eighth shot of the match, five more than any other player in the match managed.
Group F is alive!
If Germany beat Sweden and South Korea they would have six points. If Sweden lose tonight but defeat Mexico next Wednesday they would have six points, too so we could have a three-way points tie for two places. Similarly if Germany win tonight but lose to South Korea and Sweden are defeated tonight and by Mexico we could have a three-way points tie for the runners-up spot.
Full time South Korea 1-2 Mexico
South Korea's late goal gives them something to fight for against Germany if the world champions beat Sweden tonight. Mexico deserved their victory. The atacking midfield trident, Layun, Vela and Lozano, are menacingly slick and Chicharito is a scavenger of class. But they look vulnerable at the back and Old Man River Marquez almost gift-wrapped a goal late on before Son claimed some just deserts.
90+5 min South Korea 1-2 Mexico
Mexico belatedly play keepball to kill time and the game.
90+4 min South Korea 1-2 Mexico
Where there's life - he cut in from the right on to his left foot and struck a glorious curving shot that bent in unstoppably at the far post.
GOAL!! South Korea 1-2 Mexico
Son with a spectacular left-foot shot.
90+3 min South Korea 0-2 Mexico
Corona crosses from the free-kick towards Guerrero and heads it wide.
90+1 min South Korea 0-2 Mexico
We'll have five minutes added in total and they begin with a Mexico free-kcik on the right for Kim Young-gwon's foul on Hererra. His foot was high and he has already been booked but there is no further sanction.
88 min South Korea 0-2 Mexico
Mexico are simply happy to stay in shape now and hold South Korea at bay on halfway. Iain Dowie and Joe Speight are actually there. It must be the distance that gives it the audio a strangely dislocated tinny resonance. Apologies.
86 min South Korea 0-2 Mexico
In that context a goal would still be important to them here but they have run out of puff and belief. Will the kimchi be thrown at them on their return if they come away pointless from the tournament? They got one last time from a draw with Russia and were still given pelters.
84 min South Korea 0-2 Mexico
South Korea will still be alive until 8.45 or so this evening and will still cling on if Germany beat Sweden. Their only hope is to beat Germany then in the last group game and for Mexico to do for Sweden and go for a goal difference superiority. Should Sweden get at least a point, South Korea are out.
82 min South Korea 0-2 Mexico
Alvarez goes down with an attack of tactical cramp during a South Korea surge up the left that comes to naught. Eventually he makes a miracle recovery.
80 min South Korea 0-2 Mexico
Lee Seung-woo enters the book for clotheslining Hernandez.
77 min South Korea 0-2 Mexico
While Ochoa hams up his pain, two substitutions are made: Dos Santos comes on for Vela, Spurs reserves alumnus for Arsenal stiffs alumnus. Jung Woo-young enters for South Korea and Moon retreats to the bench.
75 min South Korea 0-2 Mexico
A terrible backpass from Rafael Marquezis gobbled up by Lee who has only Ochoa to beat. He tries to take him on down the right but instead of rounding him he backeels it to Son who has a covering defender in his way and can't stab it past him. Ochoa recovers and makes a dive to smother it and Ki lunges in late and starts a skirmish.
73 min South Korea 0-2 Mexico
Ki shoots from 30m and into Marquez. Korea are trying to go for it. Here's Chichrito's goal:
71 min South Korea 0-2 Mexico
Corona comes on for Lozano who leaves to a deserved standing ovation.
69 min South Korea 0-2 Mexico
Lee Seung-woo replced Ju just before the goal. Marquez came on for Guardado just after. Chicharito, whose 50th goal for Mexico that was, takes the armband from his departing captain.
65 min South Korea 0-2 Mexico
Lovely counter-attack even if he scuffed the shot. Herrera trips Ki to win the ball back but the referee deems it legal and signals play on. Lozano skates forward at top speed, losing defenders as he moves into sixth gear and approaches the box. He threads the perfect pass to Hernandez to the left of the area and he takes a touch to throw Cho off balance and commit him then shoots past him, the ball coming off the side of his foot, fairly high up with a touch of ankle too.
GOAL!! South Korea 0-2 Mexico
Chicharito makes it 2-0 on the break.
63 min South Korea 0-1 Mexico
Danger here! And there! Attempts at both ends - Lee Jae-sung's daisycutter is blocked by Salcedo inside the box then Mexico break sharply. Layun sets up Vela to shoot and he swerves it wide of the right post.
61 min South Korea 0-1 Mexico
Terrific infield run from Lozano, cutting off the right flank to trap Moreno's long ball over the top. He had crept behind the back four, stayed onside with formidable timing, stunned it and took it towards the keeper. His first effort is blocked and he can't execute the lob to score.
59 min South Korea 0-1 Mexico
Kim Young-gwon is booked for his sixth or seventh niggly foul and Mexico move the ball quickly forward from the free-kick, up to Guardado and the captain exploits a fortunate rebound from a block to lash a left-foot riser towards the top left corner but Cho, who has been magnificent, leaps up to push it over.
57 min South Korea 0-1 Mexico
Ki lets fly from the right of the box, getting his knee over the ball and thunderfooting it hard and flat at Ochoa who can't hang on but grabs it when it bounces up from his inadvertent pat-down.
56 min South Korea 0-1 Mexico
Ju bundles Lozano over 25m out, left of centre. Guardardo takes the free kick and floats it down Cho's throat. What a waste. What a waste. What a waaaaaaste.
54 min South Korea 0-1 Mexico
South Korea inquire about a penalty after Moon's cross hits Salcedo in the rib cage with his hnds up by his chest as he threw himself to block. Nothing doing.
52 min South Korea 0-1 Mexico
Chicharito's turn to ignore a player in a better position (Layun) and welly a shot over the bar. For penalty box don, taking that shot on from distance was indulgence personified.
50 min South Korea 0-1 Mexico
Alvarez takes a throw-in on the right, throws it infield and it's headed on by Vela to Lozano to bomb on to it and head for the box. Again he shoots when in space and once more he gets under it and spoons it into the crowd.
48 min South Korea 0-1 Mexico
Very disjointed so far this half. Do South Korea have an alternative plan? There is no evidence I can discern.
46 min South Korea 0-1 Mexico
Mexico kick off and begin to move the ball up the right in stages until Vela cuts in and tries to hit a left-foot pass between Jang and Lee Yong but overhits it into touch.
Here's the penalty shout
Fair enough, I'd say. His arm shouldn't be periscoped up.
Half-time South Korea 0-1 Mexico
It's not been much of a spectacle so far. Mexico have had moments of dash and verve. South Korea have improved but could do with a broader cutting edge than simply Son. Mexico look vulnerable when balls are chipped over Salcedo and Moreno into the channels while South Korea's full-backs are being terrorised by Layun and Lozano. The pass map shows the greater industry and creativity of Mexico.
45+1 min South Korea 0-1 Mexico
Moon yanks Herrera's shirt and concedes a free-kick 40m out, wide on the left. Mexico take it, chipping it out to the right but while the ball is in flight, the ref blows for half-time.
45 min South Korea 0-1 Mexico
Moreno blocks Son's shot from the inside-right channel and Salcedo the second effort when the ball ricochets back. South Korea corer which, weirdly given the time, they pass back to halfway instead of bending it into the box. Pusillanimous so and sos.
43 min South Korea 0-1 Mexico
Lozano hares in from the left touchline and gives Lee Yong kittens, turning him left and right then speeding past on the inside shoulder and into the box. This is the moment he loses his head and instead of settling for the assist by squaring it to Chicharito, he goes for goal and thrashes a right-foot piledriver a metre over the bar.
41 min South Korea 0-1 Mexico
Looking at a replay Son's first touch was too heavy and took him too close to goal. Had he caressed it with Layun's velvety softness he would have had a better angle and stopped Ochoa reaching him.
39 min South Korea 0-1 Mexico
A long ball over the top from South Korea for Son to chase exposes Salcedo's unfamiliarity with the position he's in and lack of pace. Son gets there first and takes it on to the byline but Ochoa is alert and slides in feet first to dispossess him, playing the ball into the forward's shin for a goalkick.
36 min South Korea 0-1 Mexico
Layun has the beating of Kim min-woo when he cushions a long pass with a buttery first touch, shifts the ball past the full-back and crosses. Jang bails his team-mate out with a clearance.
33 min South Korea 0-1 Mexico
Lee Yong is down clutching his side after a heavy fall when he lost his footing running at full pelt and tried to squirm past Guardado. Was his elbow driven into his ribs by the impact and crack one? No. After treatment he signals he's OK to continue.
31 min South Korea 0-1 Mexico
Son will take a free-kick from about 25m after he is tripped. He lines it up for an age, takes a long run up and flays it high, wide and hideously into the crowd.
29 min South Korea 0-1 Mexico
South Korea, better than they were against Sweden, are reeling a bit now and first Vela smashes a shot over the bar as the defensive midfielders melted away and then Layun strikes straight at Cho.
Here's Vela's penalty:
26 min South Korea 0-1 Mexico
Mexico' breakaway came from the second South Korea corner in quick succession and a missed tackle from Ju, I think, allowed Guardado to dash past. There was no intent in the handball but he did slide in to block on his backside with his hands up.
Goal! South Korea 0-1 Mexico
Carlos Vela thrashes it sweetly to the keeper's right after some timewasting and Grobbelaar theatrics from Cho.
Guardado's cross is blocked by Jang's hand from very close range as the South Korea centre-back slid in to block.
22 min South Korea 0-0 Mexico
Ki meets the header crisply and bludgeons it towards goal. Ochoa jumps up to tip it over but it wouldn't have dipped sufficiently to creep beneath the bar.
21 min South Korea 0-0 Mexico
Three shots in half a minute when Salcedo makes an error in trying to play offside. Salcedo chases back and blocks the first and third of them, Moreno the middle one. The last bounces off the defender for a corner.
18 min South Korea 0-0 Mexico
Salcedo careers into the back of Son, an age before the ball they were supposed to be battling for aerially arrives. Free-kick just inside the Mexico half. Moon goes down the right and whips in a decent cross that Mexico scramble away. He needed more support in the box. As Mexico try to work it upfield Ki trips Chicharito and, when penalised, utters a choice Anglo-Saxon expletive that would have him drummed out of chapel in the the Mumbles.
16 min South Korea 0-0 Mexico
Mexico corner from the left, after Lee Yong's vital intervention. They take it deep again and Moreno can't get a clear jump at it and floats his header towards goal, giving Cho ample time to pluck it out of the Rostov sky.
13 min South Korea 0-0 Mexico
Very good work by Hwang down the left, skipping past Gallardo by dropping a shoulder and accelerating when he had the left-back wrongfooted. He centres the ball and it eludes the keeper and defence. Lee Yong, arriving from the right, gets there first to shoot but Lozano blocks with a bold charge that winds him but saves an almost certain goal.
11 min South Korea 0-0 Mexico
Ki hacks down Herrera, the sixth or seventh South Korea cynical but not harmful foul so far. Mexico free-kick maybe 40m out by the right touchline. Vela drives a diagonal into the box and Chicharito meets it by the penalty spot, back to goal, and twists his neck to steer a header wide of the left post.
9 min South Korea 0-0 Mexico
The corner is perhaps 30cm too high for the jumping forward by the penalty spot and he catches it on the crown of his napper and knocks it up vertically. South Korea win the second ball and send it out to the left to Hwang who sets off on a 60m dash towards the box. Lozano hounds him all the way, catches up and gets in a crisp tackle.
7 min South Korea 0-0 Mexico
Layun takes Kim Min-woo, the replacement left-back who conceded the penalty against Sweden, to the corner flag and tries to round him but can't get past him with the ball and settles for a corner.
5 min South Korea 0-0 Mexico
Good skill from Jang, flicking a backheel to turn Lozano and the PSV winger, once diddled, clips his ankle to trip him.
4 min South Korea 0-0 Mexico
Lee Yong fouls Lozano again, shoving him over. Layun will take the free-kick, wide on the left, 10m from the penalty box. He bends in a cross that Jang heads clear.
2 min South Korea 0-0 Mexico
South Korea have not gone for the 4-4-2 we thought they might employ but Hwang is behind Son in a 4-4-1-1. Lee Yong wraps his studs into Lozano's calf. Should have been a yellow card but he gets away with just a free-kick against him. We've seen some filthy tackles over the past few days.
1 min South Korea 0-0 Mexico
South Korea kick off and move the ball backwards to the back four who pass it form side to side patiently, knovk it forward then lose it in midfield.
Rostov is rocking with Mexico fans
Some South Korea players, those that have undertaken national service one would think, saluted their president during the anthem. Mexico fans are belting out their marathon anthem. Chicharito is beaming broadly as he finished. Today's commentators sound as though they are not at the stadium and are doing it off the box. If so, welcome to my world.
Out come the teams
Mexico in their lovely away kit presumably to help the colour blind by eliminating the red vs green confusion. Here's what The Clothes Show's Thom Gibbs makes of it:
There are 20,000 Mexico fans in Rostov today
Not all of them dressed like this, sadly.
Have gone seven World Cup finals games since their last victory over Greece at Port Elizabeth in 2010. It's long overdue.
The teams and their records in black and white
South Korea Cho Hyun-woo; Lee Yong, Jang Hyun-soo, Kim Young-gwon, Kim Min-woo; Moon Seon-min, Ju Se-jong, Ki Sung-yeong, Lee jae-sung; Hwang Hee-chan; Son Heung-min.
Mexico Ochoa; Alvarez, Salcedo, Moreno, Gallardo; Herrera, Guardado, Layun, Vela, Lozano; Hernandez.
Referee Milorad Mazic (Serbia)
Cut out the 90 minutes
And go straight to the result. Who said we're living in a culture of instant gratification?
The teams are in
Mexico have already given us one imperishable moment at the 2018 World Cup and even though they have made it through to the knockout rounds at the last six World Cups in succession and were quarter-finalists twice at home, it felt like a watershed moment for a nation that should be among the world’s elite, given the vibrancy of their league and the skill of the players they have habitually developed.
Other conquerors of the champions in the opening group match of the following World Cup - Cameroon in 1990, Senegal in 2002, Holland in 2014, made it at least as far as the quarter-finals and that has to be the minimum target for this dynamic, energised and brilliantly-inspired side.
Their manager, Juan Carlos Osorio, who has a touch of the Shankly spirit about him, perhaps inhaled during his days at Liverpool’s John Moores University, sent them out against Germany with the famous instruction: “Focus on the beautiful game. Play for the love of winning, not the fear of losing.” Given his character it seems unlikely that anything will change today and the prospect of a victory sealing qualification will not give them altitude sickness.
As for their opponents, South Korea didn’t play badly in defeat by Sweden and could have grabbed a late equaliser when Hwang Hee-chan had a headed chance but couldn’t summon the poise or precision to earn the point. The goalkeeper, Jo Hyeon-woo, a controversial selection, played very well but they are going to need spirit, ambition and a clinical ruthlessness of their own to withstand the Mexico storm.
If they can force their opponents to run themselves into the ground with their unstintingly electric tempo, chances to stay in the tournament will emerge for this instinctively counter-attacking side. Gird themselves, think ‘Courage, brother, do not stumble’ and find the rhythm to play for their lives.