Carlos Vela started a third consecutive World Cup match for Mexico and logged a full 90 minutes, but could not prevent El Tri from suffering a stunning 3-0 loss to Sweden in Ekaterinburg on Wednesday.
The loss exposed Mexico to the very real possibility of crashing out of the tournament despite their two wins in their previous games.
Yet Vela and El Tri were rescued by South Korea, who upset Germany 2-0 in the other Group F game, played simultaneously in Kazan, which means Mexico advance to the knockout stages as the group runners-up behind Sweden, while defending champions Germany were eliminated in the group stage for the first time since 1938.
The Seattle Sounders' Gustav Svensson also saw minutes for Sweden, entering in the 57th minute in place of the injured Sebastian Larsson as the Scandinavians protected the lead provided for them by Ludwig Augustinsson in the 50th minute. Andreas Granqvist would pad that advantage from the penalty spot in the 62nd minute before an Edson Alvarez own goal capped a humbling setback for Mexico.
Real Salt Lake academy product Carlos Salcedo also went the full 90 for Mexico, his third start of the tournament, completing 81.4 percent of his 70 passes; he also made five clearances, two interceptions and blocked a shot. Meanwhile Vela chipped in two key passes and took five shots, though none found the target, and had a completion rate of 81.3 percent on his 32 passes. Brothers and LA Galaxy teammates Giovani and Jonathan dos Santos did not play.
El Tri will now meet the winners of Group E in Samara on July 2, either Brazil or Switzerland.