Three national team coaches, two wins, five draws, two losses and one miraculous game-winning bicycle kick later and Mexico enters today’s contest in Costa Rica with a chance of keeping its 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil dream in frame.
After struggling through what can be charitably described as a dismal qualifying campaign in CONCACAF’s Hexagonal, El Tri finally found winning ways in Friday’s critical contest against fellow fourth-place hopefuls Panama with a world-class goal from new hero Raul Jimenez.
Long at risk of missing out on the World Cup for the first time since 1990, Mexico’s men now face a more favorable scenario for tonight’s final Hexagonal battle, kicking off at 9:30 p.m. ET:
- Win against Los Ticos and see Honduras fall to Jamaica in Kingston while making up a two-goal difference and gain automatic qualification for next summer’s finals in Brazil;
- Win or draw today or have Panama lose or draw to USA to secure fourth place, which comes with a ticket to play Oceania champions New Zealand in an Intercontinental Playoff two-legged match to be played next month for the right to advance to the World Cup.
For Jimenez, though, there can be only one result.
“I can’t imagine a bigger game than this one against Costa Rica,” the 22-year-old hero said.
“We have to go there, and we have to win. We can’t control all of the factors in the other games, but we must do what we can, and that is come away from San Jose with all three points.”
Fulfilling that aim seems more likely under Victor Manuel Vucetich, who has inspired El Tri to look like a new side since taking charge Sept. 12 in the wake of Mexico’s 2-0 loss to the USMNT in Columbus, Ohio.
“Hopefully this hot potato turns into a gold potato,” Vucetich said when given the reins. “We have no margin for error.”
In his first match at the helm Friday, the Mexican manager rose to the challenge, switching to a 4-4-2 with fullbacks bombing forward and to help control possession and create chances.
It worked wonders at Estadio Azteca against the Panamanians, breathing new life into a once beaten side. Will it be enough to get the result today in Costa Rica?
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