YEKATERINBURG, Russia (Reuters) - Mexico will look to add gloss to their World Cup campaign when they face Sweden in their final Group F match on Wednesday, with a win likely to boost the image of their embattled coach Juan Carlos Osorio back home.
Osorio’s relationship with the Mexican media has been prickly due to his frequent experimentation with the squad since taking charge in 2015. The Mexican public too have seemed unconvinced by his methods.
But that appears to have changed somewhat after a shock victory over defending champions Germany in their first game and a 2-1 win over South Korea, which has put the team top of their group and on the brink of qualification to the last 16.
Supporters who had been calling for the 56-year-old to be axed following a 1-0 friendly win over Scotland earlier this month appear to have made their peace with the Colombian.
Osorio could ensure everyone involved with Mexican soccer will have more reason to celebrate after Wednesday’s match at the Ekaterinburg Arena.
“El Tri” will advance to the knockout stages with a win or a draw against Sweden. A loss too will not halt their progress provided Germany lose to or draw with South Korea, who are yet to open their account. Sweden would move on in that scenario.
However, goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa said Mexico have what it takes to beat the Scandinavians.
“We knew it was going to go down to the last match, and that is what happened,” said Ochoa, who has made more saves (14) after two games than any other keeper in the tournament. “We are prepared to win all three matches... That’s what we want to do.”
Mexico could then look to break a frustrating run of six successive last-16 eliminations but face the prospect of meeting Brazil in the next round.
Sweden, who beat South Korea 1-0 in their first match, have three points and were unlucky not to collect another from their game with Germany, who they had been holding to a draw until Toni Kroos’ last-minute winner.
Sweden’s forward Marcus Berg admitted the team had “broken down” after that defeat.
“But there’s a saying, ‘Breaking down to rise again’... We have it in our own hands, and that’s something we’re happy about.
“We’ll do everything against Mexico and we have an incredible spirit in the team. It’s going to be extremely difficult to stop us from advancing out of the group,” he said.
Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar; Editing by Hugh Lawson