The history does not back Mexico, but they are hoping to dump Brazil out of the World Cup when the two sides meet for their Round of 16 clash at the Samara Arena on Monday. However, the 2018 version of El Tri have already demonstrated a capability to surprise in Russia. For a seventh straight World Cup Mexico have made it to the last 16, but, agonisingly, they have failed to go any further on the six previous occasions, turning the desire just to make the “quinto partido” (fifth match) an obsession. “There’s no greater memory than making history with a fifth match,” said Mexico captain Andres Guardado. “We’re different players in terms of the mental aspect, but we know we’ll be judged by whether we get through or not.
“What greater motivation could you need when we face off against the five-time champions? It’s the perfect scene. It’s the biggest game of our lives.”
Mexico’s last-16 misfortunes have often come down to the finest of margins. Defeat on penalties to surprise package Bulgaria in 1994 started an inauspicious run. They blew a lead against Germany four years later and against Argentina in 2006.