The elusive “quinto partido” is fueling Mexico ahead of their daunting knockout round opener against Brazil tomorrow.
The phrase, which means fifth game, refers to the quarter-finals at the World Cup. Mexico have made it to the round of 16 for the past six tournaments but haven’t been able to advance any further.
If they can beat Neymar and the Brazilians in Samara, El Tri will reach that quinto partido. But that’s a big if.
Mexico have already made history in Russia, beating defending champions Germany 1-0 in the group opener. It was their first victory over the Germans in a competitive match and first in any game since 1985. The loss would later figure in Germany’s shock 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 are coming off a disappointing 3-0 loss to Sweden in their group stage finale. That result, combined with South Korea’s 2-0 surprise upset against Germany, gave Sweden the top spot in the group and made Mexico the runners-up.
For winning the group, Sweden earned a spot against Switzerland to start the knockout round. Mexico got the five-times World Cup champions.
Four years ago in Brazil, the two nations played out a scoreless draw at the group stage. Brazil had won the three previous World Cup meetings.
“We also had never beaten Germany in a World Cup and we did it,” Guardado said, searching for the positives. “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.”
Mexico will be without defender Hector Moreno tomorrow because of yellow card accumulation, while Brazil could be missing several players through injury.
Douglas Costa and Marcelo practiced separately from their team-mates on Friday but Danilo, who didn’t play in the group final against Serbia because of a hip injury, trained with his team-mates.
Marcelo sustained a back injury against Serbia, and Costa has a thigh injury that may keep him out of the rest of the tournament.
Both teams have been in relaxed mood ahead of the game. 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.
But the countries were back on the training pitch yesterday before flying to Samara for what they hope will be a passport to the quarter-finals. Quinto partido.