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The conclusion to Mexico vs. Sweden left us all emotional wrecks

The final minutes of Group F play gave us all the drama we could ever want.

Mexico v Sweden: Group F - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Photo by Hector Vivas/Getty Images

The madness of the third day of Group F matches was best captured by the last few minutes of the Mexico and Sweden game. Mexico was already down, 3-0, and had no chance of coming back to win the game.

But Mexico could still go through ... if South Korea could hang on for a tie or, dare to dream, win against Germany.

In those last few minutes, Mexican fans in the stadium were glued to their phones rather than what was happening in front of them. Their own game didn’t matter anymore. Then the chaos came. The chaos after the chaos that was Mexico’s performance.

First, it was announced that South Korea had scored, and the Mexican fans started celebrating. Streamers were everywhere, food was being thrown, and people were jumping up and down. The celebrations from the Mexican fans made a bizarre scene considering the desperation and frustration of their own players, who had no idea about the score in the other game, and were still down 3-0 trying to score against Sweden. Since they were ignorant of the other result, they were still thinking they had blown their chance to move on. Germany would score, they had to have been thinking. Germany always scores.

Mexico v Sweden: Group F - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Photo by Hector Vivas/Getty Images

Though if they had looked into the crowd, it would have told them: Something good had happened. Something miraculous had happened. It wasn’t Germany that got the goal, but South Korea. Mexico was alive.

Then the commentator announced the South Korean goal was being disputed and the issue would be taken to VAR. For a bit, the Mexican fans were also ignorant of the review. They kept on cheering, thinking Mexico had gone through. Slowly, as the news came to their phones, their jubilation was replaced by that tension returning. The stadium fell quiet. Everyone was back to staring at their phones, waiting on the judgement of VAR to let them know how they should feel. The players kept playing in front of the fans, but they were nothing more than background noise at that point. (And those players had to be confused themselves, first at the original celebrations and then at the quietness that followed.)

Finally, it was confirmed that the goal would stand. The fans exploded. Mexico’s game ended before the second South Korean goal, but when the TV transitioned away from the German humiliation back to Mexico’s escape, the players were clapping for and thanking the fans with the attitude of a team that had been disqualified, rather than one that had made it through to the next round. Sweden could celebrate because they won, but while Mexico had gone through thanks to South Korea, they couldn’t really celebrate anything that had gone on in their game. The fans could, but the players were more embarrassed than anything.

Mexico v Sweden: Group F - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Photo by Hector Vivas/Getty Images

It wasn’t just those final minutes, though: Group F has been an emotional rollercoaster from the start. First Mexico unexpectedly beat defending champions Germany, and Sweden beat South Korea with a penalty. Then Mexico beat South Korea, a match not without its drama as South Korea scored in the 90th minute and threatened to equalize after. Germany beat Sweden after going down to 10 men. A victory that was thanks to a last-minute Toni Kroos free kick, which would have been one of the most iconic moments in a World Cup, had Germany not gone on to lose to South Korea. That loss found them finishing last in the group and joining the list of previous champions that were knocked out in the group stages the tournament after their win.

And for Mexico, the elation of the first two wins were replaced by a sense of powerlessness after being outclassed by Sweden, and having to wait for and hope Germany wouldn’t beat South Korea. Mexico put themselves in a position to advance, and their fate was in their own hands going into the game, but by the end of it, there was really not much to celebrate except for luck and South Korea’s pride.

In the last 10 minutes of the Mexico-Sweden game, Mexican fans and the players experienced the whole spectrum of sports fandom. First there was sadness at being down 3-0, then joy after discovering that South Korea had scored, embarrassment at having to depend on outside forces after such a shameful performance, and a sense of relief that at least Mexico still advances. Luck is a part of the game, and someone has to benefit. It’s always better to be on the receiving end.

The worst part is, going forward, we have no real idea of what Mexico is capable of. Are they the team that beat Germany? The team that seemed comfortable against South Korea before almost collapsing in the final minutes, or the team that were run over by Sweden? No one knows, because nothing makes sense in this sport.