Mexico's Ulises Rivas celebrates after scoring against Iraq in the FIFA U-17 World Cup on October 22, 2013, in Al Ain City, United Arab Emirates. (Photo: FIFA via Getty Images)
AL AIN CITY, UAE – Mexico’s hopes of reaching the knockout stage of the FIFA Under-17 World Cup remain intact following a 3-1 Group F victory over Iraq on Tuesday.
The CONCACAF champion fell to Nigeria, 6-1, in its opening match, but looked a different team at the Khalifa Bin Zayed Stadium.
It took a deserved lead in the 31st minute, when Alejandro Diaz flicked a touchline cross from Francisco Calderon inside the far post from the edge of the six-yard box.
Diaz was involved again 10 minutes later, as Mexico doubled its advantage. The Club America youth product directed Osvaldo Rodriguez’s throw-in toward goal, where it was headed by Iraq defender Ahmed Nadhim. Jose Almanza was there to pounce and volley the ball into the net.
Iraq, which fell to 0-0-2, tested the Mexican defense twice five minutes into the second half. Goalkeeper Raul Gudino, though, was up to the task on both occasions. He saved a free kick by Ali Isam and, moments later, corralled a flicked header by Amjed Kareem following a cross by Ahmed Nadhim.
Shortly after Mahdi Adbulzahra headed Bashar Resan’s free kick over the crossbar, Iraq pulled a goal back in the 61st minute. Nadhim made a penetrating run into the Mexico 18-yard box and cut the ball back to Amjed Attwan, whose shot was blocked. Sherko Kareem received the rolling ball and unleashed a blast from distance, putting his low, hard shot off the far post and in to halve the deficit.
Kareem then nearly equalized in the 68th minute, but his effort from close range after cutting inside of a defender hit the outside netting.
Mexican captain Ulises Rivas put the encounter out of reach, taking a pass from Ivan Ochoa and striking from 16-yards out with six minutes remaining in regulation.
El Tri temporarily moves into a three-way tie for first place in the group, pending the result of Tuesday’s later match between Nigeria and Sweden.
Mexico, which won the 2011 U-17 World Cup, concludes the group stage Friday, taking on Sweden in Al Ain City.