Going into the knockout stage wasn't an easy task after losing our first two games. We felt like we really hit rock bottom. For me, the next two days consisted of a lot of silence and frustration. We were put in a position where we had to win our third game and also depend on other teams and results to secure a spot in the next round. Even with the odds not appearing to be in our favor, we didn't lose hope.
Our third and final game of group stage was against Mali. We knew it wasn't going to be any easy task. They too were looking to win. We were very motivated to give it all we had for this final group stage game. In order for us to secure a third place spot, we had to win by at least three goals. My team and I kept a positive mentality and kept in mind the famous Mexican motto of "SI SE PUEDE."
We started the game off well leading, 2-0, at the end of the first half. During halftime, we got together and kept saying how we needed just one more goal and we'd be through. Everybody was willing to give their heart and soul to these next 45 minutes. We knew we were gambling a process of two years of hard work in these last 45 minutes. It could've either been worth it or gone to trash. We didn’t feel the pressure though and towards the end of the second half, we were leading, 3-0.
On my end, after we scored the third goal, it seemed like it was said and done and we were in the next round. But reality didn't fail to sneak up behind me and a goal was scored on us. We were now 3-1. Like I mentioned before, the minimum goals we needed to lead by was three. We were only leading by two and the clock was still ticking. There were 20 minutes left. The next 10 minutes were the longest of my life. I kept looking at the clock to see if it could go any slower to benefit us. Before I knew it, we were in the spot we wanted to be in. The fourth goal was scored in the 86th minute and there was a sense of relief. By this time, there were four minutes left in the game. Our security in the back was at it's finest. In a blink of an eye, the ref blew the whistle and the game was over.
We were all obviously very happy with the win and, to top it all off, the results we depended on from other teams worked to our favor. I was anxious to find out who our next opponent was. Just as I predicted, we were going to head out to Istanbul to play against Spain. I thought to myself and giggled at the the fact that it was almost as if history was repeating itself- referring to when the Spanish and Aztecs fought each other. Remembering that only motived me more. This won't be an easy game for us, but neither will it be for them.