Soccer-Martino's Mexico reign ends after World Cup group stage exit

Soccer Football - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 - Group C - Saudi Arabia v Mexico - Lusail Stadium, Lusail, Qatar - November 30, 2022 Mexico coach Gerardo Martino with Raul Jimenez before he comes on as a substitute REUTERS/Matthew Childs

LUSAIL, Qatar (Reuters) - Mexico coach Tata Martino accepted full responsibility for their World Cup group stage exit and said he will not extend his contract with the federation (FMF) after they agonisingly missed out on the last 16 on goal difference.

Mexico's 2-1 win over Saudi Arabia proved insufficient as they were eliminated from the tournament after finishing third behind Poland, paying the price for firing blanks in their first two Group C games - a goalless draw with Poland and a 2-0 loss to Argentina.

With Argentina beating Poland 2-0 and Mexico leading by the same scoreline against Saudi Arabia, Martino's side needed one more goal to avoid crashing out on fair play points.

But Salem Al-Dawsari's injury-time consolation meant marked Mexico's earliest exit from a World Cup since 1978.

Martino took over at Mexico in January 2019 and was tasked with achieving the goal that had eluded them for more than three decades: the World Cup quarter-finals. They last reached that stage when they hosted the tournament in 1986.

The Central Americans had advanced to the knockout round in their seven subsequent appearances in the competition but exited at the last 16 stage at every World Cup since 1994.

"I am responsible for this disappointment. It is a great sadness and I assume all the responsibility of this huge failure," said Martino, whose contract was reportedly due to expire after Mexico's World Cup campaign.

"It has been eight World Cups since this happened. My contract expired with the final whistle and there is nothing else to do.

"During our match tonight, Mexico's superiority was shown throughout the game. With Poland, we were not able to show the superiority we had. With Argentina, we could have faced the second half with our usual style."

Knowing that a win by at least a three-goal margin would give them a fighting chance of advancing, Mexico took the game to Saudi Arabia and looked to be on track after going 2-0 up within seven minutes of the restart thanks to Henry Martin and Luis Chavez.

Saudi Arabia goalkeeper Mohammed Al-Owais made a series of superb saves to thwart a fired-up Mexico attack, while Hirving Lozano and substitute Uriel Antuna had goals disallowed for offside as Martino's side searched in vain for the elusive third goal.

"That is why we went for the it and brought on two centre forwards, it was necessary in that moment because of the other result. We knew that Poland had fewer yellow cards," Martino said.

"We had already assessed that unless many (Poland) players were booked, this result meant that we were still out.

"But we failed and I don't think we were knocked out in the previous matches, rather today. This is the reality. We are in a position of fragility because we are out of the World Cup."

(Reporting by Hritika Sharma, editing by Pritha Sarkar)

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