Mexico will decide it's World Cup fate when they face El Salvador on Wednesday at the Estadio Nacional. After winning their first three games, Mexico lost 1-0 to the United States in the opening game of the second group round. This defeat means Mexico need to win to guarantee a spot at the U-20 World Cup. A draw might still leave El Tri with some possibility but it would all be dependent on a big United States win, considering El Salvador and the United States face each other in the final game.
Mexico was coming into the second round as the best team of the tournament but were badly exposed by the United States in a game where they were totally outplayed and outcoached. The 1-0 scoreline didn't do justice to a game where the U.S. had the perfect game plan to neutralize Mexico and succeeded. Honduras had already done something similar in the first half of their game but failed to keep it up for 90 minutes. The defeat was the first for Mexico in a CONCACAF U-20 tournament since 2009.
Mexico not only go into this game after taking a mental hit for their defeat against their biggest rivals but are also doing it with just one day of rest. In contrast, El Salvador’s last game was on Saturday. Still, one thing to point out is the U.S had a physical advantage over Mexico, especially in the midfield. While El Salvador can do something similar tactically, they don't have the physical prowess of the United States or Honduras.
El Salvador has been one of the surprises of the tournament. Like Panama, nobody expected them to win the group, especially over host Costa Rica, who has arguably been the most disappointing team in the tournament. The other teams El Salvador faced were Bermuda and Trinidad and Tobago. In fact, the young Selecta side lost to Trinidad and Tobago, although it could have been a matter of them already having qualified to the next round by the time the final group stage game came around.
Under normal circumstances, Mexico should be favored for this match. That said, the lack of rest and the mental hit from the unexpected loss to the United States could be a determining factor. The answer to how Mexico reply might be on Mexican coach, Marco Antonio Ruiz, who is tasked with finding solutions to El Tri’s fitness problems and bad play against Tab Ramos’ team. For the first time, the pressure is on for Ruiz as a World Cup place is on the line.
Date: Wednesday, March 1
Time: 2:30 PM Pacific, 4:30 PM Central, 5:30 PM Eastern
Venue: Estadio Nacional, San José, Costa Rica
Television: United States - Univision Deportes Network