The door to the knockout stages of the World Cup was wide open before Mexico kicked off against Sweden. By the end of Matchday 3, Mexico had narrowly slipped through as South Korea propped the door open just a sliver before it slammed shut.
Entering the day on top of Group F with the maximum six points, Mexico needed just a draw to guarantee advancement. But Sweden, very much still alive despite a last minute loss to Germany in the previous match, had other ideas.
Ludwig Augustinsson finished an unmarked chance from 10 yards out to open the scoring in the 50th. Andreas Granqvist doubled the lead with an unstoppable penalty just 12 minutes later. Then an own goal off the boot of Edson Álvarez, and El Tri went down 3-0 with less than 20 minutes to play.
Mexico no longer in control of its own destiny at the World Cup, El Tri fans turned their attention to the scoreless match between Germany and South Korea. A Germany goal would spell disaster for Mexico. Into stoppage time, the Germans continued to pour forward.
But two minutes into stoppage time, a South Korean corner rattled around the Germany penalty area before finding the foot of defender Kim Young-gwon. The defender lifted his shot into the roof of the German net. While flag of the assistant referee cut celebrations short, replays showed the South Korean defender might have been played in by German midifielder Toni Kroos. Referee Mark Geiger went to VAR to have a closer look.
After a quick check, the goal was confirmed by Geiger. South Korea were ahead 1-0. Mexico had a lifeline.
As the final whistle blew confirming Mexico's 3-0 defeat to Sweden, the Mexican players remained on the field to await the results of the Germany-South Korea match. With South Korea up 1-0, Mexico would advance.
Needing two goals in quick succession, Germany poured forward with all 11 players on the pitch. German goalkeeper Manuel Neuer lost possession of the ball some 70 yards from his own net, allowing Ju Se-jong to knock the ball into the path of Son Heung-min. With an empty net and no Germany players in his path, Son easily finished South Korea's second of the match. The reigning champs were out. Mexico would go through despite the loss.
After the dust settled on Matchday 3, Sweden, in third heading into the day, catapulted to the top of Group F. Mexico would claim the second spot. And Germany would become the fourth reigning champion in the last five World Cups to go out in the group stage.
Carlos Vela played the full 90 minutes plus stoppage in Mexico's final match of Group F. He was unlucky not to open the scoring for Mexico against Sweden when a Chicharito shot fizzed off his forward and just wide of an the empty net of Sweden. The LAFC forward finished the group stage with one goal and created numerous chances for Mexico in three starts.
Mexico now awaits the winner of Group E in the Round of 16 on July 2.