30 Jun 2018, 18:27 IST
SAMARA, Russia (AP) — The elusive “quinto partido” is fueling Mexico ahead of its daunting knockout round opener against Brazil.
The phrase, which means fifth game, refers to the quarterfinals at the World Cup. Mexico has made it to the round of 16 for the past six tournaments but hasn’t been able to advance any further.
If they can beat Neymar and the Brazilians, El Tri will reach that quinto partido. But that’s a big if.
Mexico has already made history in Russia, beating defending champion Germany 1-0 in the group opener. It was Mexico’s first victory over the Germans in a competitive match — and first in any game since 1985. The loss would later figure in Germany’s elimination in Russia.
“We’re motivated by the fact that we’re in the knockout stage, facing Brazil and one victory from reaching the fifth game,” captain Andres Guardado said. “It doesn’t go through my mind to think that this will be the last game that I’m going to play with the national team at a World Cup. We advanced despite a difficult group, and we’re here. It’s in our hands.”
Mexico is coming off a disappointing 3-0 loss to Sweden in its group stage finale. That result, combined with South Korea’s 2-0 shocking upset against Germany, gave Sweden the top spot in the group and made Mexico the runner-up.
For winning the group, Sweden earned a spot against Switzerland to start the knockout round. Mexico got the five-time World Cup champions.
Four years ago in Brazil, the two teams played to a scoreless draw in their group. Brazil had won the three previous World Cup meetings.
“We also had never beat Germany in a World Cup and we did it,” Guardado said. “We’re going to hold on to that because we came here to make history and we’re going to do everything to achieve it. The numbers against Brazil are just a stat and it doesn’t count once the game kicks off.”
El Tri haven’t made it past the second round since the 1986 World Cup, when they hosted the tournament and reached the quarterfinals.
Mexico’s last victory over Brazil came in 2012 in an exhibition match at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. El Tri memorably won the friendly match 2-0 before a crowd of more than 84,000 fans.
ABSENCES: Mexico will be without defender Hector Moreno because of yellow card accumulation, while Brazil could be missing several players because of a spate of injuries.
Douglas Costa and Marcelo practiced separately from their teammates on Friday but Danilo, who didn’t play in the group final against Serbia because of a hip injury, trained with his teammates.
Marcelo had a back injury sustained against Serbia, and Costa has a thigh injury that may keep him out of the rest of the tournament.
Marcelo posted to Twitter: “Thank you all for the messages!!! Thank God it was not serious!!! Soon I will be back!!! “
STAYING LOOSE: Several Mexico players and coach Juan Carlos Osorio took the afternoon off on Friday and went sightseeing at Moscow’s Red Square. Guardado and his family, and defenders Jesus Gallardo and Edson Alvarez, midfielder Javier Aquino, striker Raul Jimenez and Osorio all spent several hours downtown.
At Brazil’s training base in Sochi, players had fun playing with their kids after practice — including Neymar and his son Davi Lucca. The team has had a family-friendly atmosphere throughout the tournament. But they practiced behind closed doors on Saturday before a planned flight to Samara.
HASHTAGS: Mexico has adopted the social media hashtag #nadanosdetiene, or “nothing stops us.” Brazil has adopted #GigantesPorNatureza, or “Giants by Nature.”
HISTORY: It is the 60th anniversary of Brazil’s first World Cup title. That tournament was played in Sweden. Brazil topped its group, then beat Wales and France before facing the hosts in the final.
With 17-year-old emerging star Pele scoring a pair of goals, the Brazilians won 5-2 to earn the star above their crest.
Brazil went on to win World Cup titles in 1962, 1970, 1994 and 2002. The team hosted the event in 2014 but finished a disappointing fourth after falling to eventual champion Germany in the semifinals.
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