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.”
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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.