Mexico‘s men’s national team has officially qualified for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, continuing a stretch that dates back to the 1994 tournament.
Thanks to a win against El Salvador on Wednesday night in their final CONCACAF qualifier, Mexico has finished runners-up in the eight-team table and with a direct ticket to Qatar, behind group winners Canada and ahead of the third-placed United States.
“This was something I expected from us and it’s something that we needed to do. Now, what’s next is preparing for the objective,” said Mexico manager Gerardo “Tata” Martino after the victory on Wednesday. “Tomorrow begins a totally different stage than the one we’ve been living in during these six to eight months for the World Cup qualifiers.”
Mexico’s path was a tense and nervous one that featured several low-scoring draws and narrow wins. Along with an inability to defeat the United States and Canada in home-and-away battles through the Octagonal, questions swirled over the managerial future of Gerardo “Tata” Martino in Mexico’s following lackluster results in recent matches.
With injuries limiting key playmakers like Raul Jimenez and Hirving Lozano, and a lack of reliable backups in the frontline, El Tri struggled to capitalize on goalscoring chances throughout the Octagonal. Defensively, Martino’s squad encountered few problems as many opponents preferred to sit back rather than attack.
Mexico’s qualifying campaign saw it play one home match at Estadio Azteca behind closed doors and two others with limited attendance as punishments over instances of an anti-gay chant among fans at previous games.
At the World Cup, Mexico has been eliminated the last seven times in the Round of 16, having only reached the quarterfinal stage when serving as hosts in 1986 and 1970. Due to these consistent early departures in the knockout round, reaching the quinto partido (“fifth game”) at the World Cup has turned into a mythical objective among El Tri fans and observers.
Mexico will be placed into Pot 2 for the draw to decide the eight four-team groups in Qatar, which will be held Friday at 12 p.m. ET.
Only three teams in the 32-side field have yet to be determined. In a pair of one-game playoffs in Qatar in June, fellow CONCACAF rivals Costa Rica will play New Zealand while Peru will play either Australia or the United Arab Emirates.
The final spot will belong to the winner of Wales vs. Scotland/Ukraine. The Scotland-Ukraine playoff match, originally scheduled for March 24, was postponed following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and has not been rescheduled.