Mexico national team was five minutes away from not qualifying to next year’s World Cup in Brazil, until their worst enemy came to the rescue: United States achieved the miracle and gave El Tri the ticket to the playoff against New Zealand. Undeservedly, and despite the 2-1 defeat against Costa Rica, Mexico escaped from the worst failure in its history.
Costa Rica had threatened to beat Mexico and disqualify them from the World Cup, and they almost succeeded. From the first minute, Costa Rica attacked, always encouraged by the fans who screamed at all times with hopes of breaking 21 years of not defeating Mexico on home soil.
Mexico national team could not react from the initial pressure Costa Rica showed on the field of the National Stadium at San Jose on Tuesday, October 15th. Mexico players looked overwhelmed, shy, and defeated during the entire game. The weather didn’t help El Tri either – heavy rain made the field into a slipping slide. Players were more preoccupied of not falling than trying to play soccer.
Mexico battled behind Costa Rica for most of the night, but not before having the chance to score early in the game. Mexico’s best chance came after a series of passes between Oribe Peralta and Javier Hernandez. Chicharito took goalkeeper Keylor Navas, and attempted a one-time his shot into the vacant net, but he scuffed it to Peralta, who was standing in an offside position by the far post. The ball went in but the goal didn’t count.
Unfortunately for Mexico, Costa Rica reacted and opened the score. Bryan Ruiz scored in the 25th minute, by getting behind Mexico center backs Rafael Marquez and Hugo Ayala after a crossing from the right side, bouncing the ball over the top and heading the ball to create space as he turned and shot on goal in front of a helpless Mexico goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa.
As of that moment, considering Panama’s 1-0 lead over the USA, Mexico was out of the World Cup, but Oribe Peralta appeared with a goal which allowed El Tri to dream for a moment with the playoffs. Oribe Peralta found the ball in the area after Javier Hernandez forced a play, Peralta shot on goal with his left foot; the ball hit the crossbar and went inside the goal.
Chicharito missed another opportunity at the end of the first half. Javier Aquino crossed the ball to the near post, where Chicharito was making his run, but he put the ball into the side of the net. At the end of the first half and with the score tied, Mexico was maintaining the fourth place in the final Hexagonal and securing the playoff.
In the second half, Mexico national team looked really tired because of the intensity of the game and the weather condition. Chicharito got substituted in the 60th minute for Friday’s goal-scoring hero Raul Jimenez, but not before picking up a yellow card that will have him suspended for the first leg against New Zealand.
Unfortunately for Victor Manuel Vucetich’s side everything collapsed: Joel Campbell took Jose Torres Nilo on the right wing, crossed the ball to Alvario Saborio who put Costa Rica ahead with a free header in front of Guillermo Ochoa. Mexico was back out of the qualification places for just a moment until the USA tied things up with Panama just seconds later.
Panama took a 2-1 lead against the USA, but Graham Zusi’s late goal and Aron Johannsson’s winner goal eliminated Panama and ensured that the loss would not put a shocking end to Mexico’s qualifying campaign.
Mexico national team finished in fourth in the CONCACAF World Cup Qualifier with 11 points. As a result, Mexico entered a home-and-away playoff against OFC World Cup Qualifier Champion New Zealand next November for a place at the 2014 World Cup. Victor Manuel Vucetich and his team are still alive, at least for two more games. There are plenty of things El Tri has to improve if they want to qualify to the World Cup.
Mexico: Guillermo Ochoa, Miguel Layún, Rafael Márquez, Hugo Ayala, José Torres Nilo (Isaac Brizuela), Christian Giménez, Carlos Peña, Jesús Zavala, Javier Aquino (Giovani dos Santos), Oribe Peralta, Javier Hernández (Raúl Jiménez).
Costa Rica: Keylor Navas, Bryan Oviedo, Christian Gamboa, Geancarlo González, Jhonny Acosta, Michael Umaña, Christian Bolaños, Celso Borges, Yelstin Tejeda (José Cubero), Bryan Ruiz (Álvaro Saborío), Joel Campbell (Michael Barrantes).