As one of the dominant North American football nations, Mexico has a deep-rooted history at the FIFA World Cup.
El Tri are considered one of the pre-eminent football countries on their side of the Atlantic, but they have failed to get over the hump in World Cup competition, still unable to prove they belong in the same conversation as the giants of Europe and South America.
Having been eliminated in the Round of 16 in seven straight tournaments, there is a background anxiety across the Mexican fanbase as they grow impatient waiting for improvement on the world stage.
Still, Mexico are engrained in the fabric of the World Cup, as a multiple-time host of the tournament and a participant in some of the event’s biggest moments.
MORE: Times, dates and fixtures for all Mexico matches at the 2022 World Cup?
How many times has Mexico played in the World Cup?
The 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar will be Mexico’s 17th World Cup.
In the early days of the tournament, Mexico qualified for most editions as the dominant side in CONCACAF, but they failed to put forth a solid effort in the finals themselves, eliminated in the group stage in the first six World Cups they contested.
It wasn’t until 1970 that Mexico first reached the knockout stage, progressing to the quarterfinals that year (the first round of knockout competition in that tournament) on home soil, before a heavy defeat to Italy.
They reached the quarterfinals again in 1986 as second-time hosts, this time doing so by defeating Bulgaria in the Round of 16 for El Tri’s first-ever knockout stage victory.
The next tournament, in 1994, would begin an almost eerie run of Round of 16 eliminations for Mexico that lasts to today, exiting the group stage but failing to win a knockout game for the last seven straight tournaments.
What is Mexico’s ‘quinto partido’ curse?
Mexico’s inability to win a knockout game, and progress beyond that hurdle at World Cup finals, has become part of folklore in the country’s footballing circles.
So much so that it has it’s own name, the ‘qunito partido’ — or fifth game — curse.
Some attribute their run of failures to the 1990 World Cup, just prior to the streak’s inception, in which Mexico was banned for knowingly deploying overage players.
Mexico World Cup record
Mexico have been a very streaky World Cup participant, stuck on a run of seven straight tournaments reaching the Round of 16 but failing to win a knockout game.
El Tri struggled early on in their World Cup history, failing to win a match in their first four tournaments before earning their first World Cup win with a 3-1 victory over Czechoslovakia in the 1962 World Cup. They earned their next five World Cup wins on home soil between the 1970 and 1986 tournaments, and since then have won at least one match at every World Cup they’ve participated in.
Mexico’s best performance came in the 1986 World Cup at home, where they won their only knockout round match in history with a 2-0 victory over Bulgaria via goals from Manuel Negrete and Raul Servin.
|Year||Host||Stage Reached||Eliminated by|
|1986||Mexico||Quarterfinals||West Germany (0-0)*|
|1994||United States||Round of 16||Bulgaria (1-1)*|
|1998||France||Round of 16||Germany (2-1)|
|2002||Japan & South Korea||Round of 16||USA (2-0)|
|2006||Germany||Round of 16||Argentina (2-1, aet)|
|2010||South Africa||Round of 16||Argentina (3-1)|
|2014||Brazil||Round of 16||Netherlands (2-1)|
|2018||Russia||Round of 16||Brazil (2-0)|
* Opponent won via penalty shootout
Mexico World Cup results
|Year||Host||W-D-L||Goals For||Goals Against|
|2002||Japan & South Korea||2-1-1||4||4|
Has Mexico ever won the World Cup?
Mexico has never won a FIFA World Cup, only ever reaching the quarterfinals twice in their history, and both times on home soil.
The first time, in 1970, Mexico finished level with the Soviet Union atop Group A on both points and goal difference, officially finishing second in the group on a drawing of lots. The knockout stage featured only eight teams in that competition, and Mexico fell to Italy 4-1 in their quarterfinal match. They would have played Uruguay had they won the drawing of lots, to whom the Soviet Union lost 1-0 in extra time.
In 1986, hosting the World Cup for a second time, Mexico won its only-ever knockout game in history, defeating Bulgaria 2-0 in the Round of 16 before falling to West Germany on penalties after a 0-0 quarterfinal draw. That is the best showing Mexico has ever had at a World Cup.
After being banned from the 1990 World Cup in Italy, Mexico has been eliminated in the Round of 16 in every World Cup tournament since, falling in their first knockout-stage match in seven straight tournaments.
Has Mexico ever hosted the World Cup?
Mexico is one of just three nations to have hosted the World Cup multiple times, welcoming the tournament twice, once in 1970 and again in 1986.
Mexico will become the first and only nation to host the World Cup three times when they play joint-hosts for the 2026 World Cup, alongside fellow CONCACAF nations United States and Canada.
The Estadio Azteca in Mexico City is one of just two stadiums in history to host two World Cup finals, alongside the Maracana in Brazil. While the venue for the 2026 World Cup final has not been officially announced, the high-altitude venue is not thought to be in the running to host the prestigious event for a third time.