After El Tri’s World Cup group-stage elimination on Wednesday, Gerardo “Tata” Martino resigned from his position as Mexico’s head coach.
Mexico’s 2-1 victory over Saudi Arabia in their last group match wasn’t enough to advance them to the round of 16, as Poland defeated them on goal differential. Martino’s team failed to score in a tie with Poland and a loss to Argentina, earning only one point from their opening two games in Qatar.
Following Mexico’s elimination from the competition, Martino announced during a news conference that his contract had expired.
“I am the first responsible for this terrible disappointment and frustration that we have,” Martino said. “As the person in charge, it causes a lot of sadness, I fully assume responsibility for this great failure.
“My contract ended as soon as the referee blew the final whistle and there is nothing more to be done.”
Since their elimination from the competition in 1990, Mexico hasn’t participated in the World Cup’s knockout round. El Tri last made the tournament’s qualifying round but was unable to go past the group round in 1978.
“It’s sad, it’s ugly, and well, that’s how football is,” midfielder Orbelin Pineda said after being knocked out. “When you have to take advantage [of opportunities], you have to give your best.”
Goalkeeper and captain Guillermo Ochoa said after the match that his team fell short of the expectations they had set for themselves before the game.
“For us, the objective was to score three or four goals. It’s a shame because we tried and we did our best,” Ochoa said. “We created opportunities and I feel like we could have scored more goals today. We weren’t sharp, there were offside calls and it’s a shame.”
Heading into the match following a 0-0 draw against Poland in their World Cup opener and a 2-0 defeat to Argentina in game two, Mexico needed a multigoal result against Saudi Arabia in order to significantly boost their chances for a place in the knockout round.
And before Saudi Arabia scored late in injury time, Mexico were up 2-0 in the early stages of the second half, needing just one more goal to ensure a spot into the round of 16.
“It was difficult because the end [of the match] was arriving and we knew we needed one more goal. We were looking for it, trying,” defender Kevin Alvarez said.
Ultimately, an additional goal would arrive, but instead for Saudi Arabia. When Salem Al-Dawsari found the back of the net in injury time, it all but ended the knockout round hopes for the Mexico, who would have to score again in the dying minutes.
With the final whistle securing the 2-1 result in Mexico’s favor, Martino’s time was up with Mexico and when asked what the manager said after the game in the locker room, Alvarez remained silent.
“That’s something more internal, and well, that’s just the case,” Alvarez added.
In his final press conference as coach of Mexico, Martino was open and said that the 2022 World Cup would be remembered as a failure despite the efforts of his players against Saudi Arabia in the final group game.
“It was the game we played the best, we created the most goal opportunities,” Martino said. “And we could have scored the number of goals so as not to depend on the other game, but we failed.”
He also remained tight-lipped on revealing a review of his own tenure with the Mexican national team, but hinted at possibly having plenty to tell his former bosses.
“I am not in a position to do an analysis at this time, I have it, but if the FMF asks me to, I’m going to do it because I have a lot to say,” Martino said.
After guiding Atlanta United to victory in the MLS Cup, Martino, who had previously served as the manager of his native Argentina, was appointed manager of Mexico in January 2019 but as the squad struggled to qualify for the 2022 World Cup, losing to the United States and Canada on the road and only drawing with them at home, he lost favor with Mexico’s fans. Mexico lost to the US in the CONCACAF Nations League and Gold Cup finals while Martino was in charge.
Martino came under intense pressure for continuing to leave Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez off his team, especially given Mexico’s poor offensive performance in Qatar.