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Mexico vs. Costa Rica, 2018 World Cup Qualifying: What to watch for

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Mexico v Jamaica: Group C - Copa America Centenario Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Mexico resume World Cup qualifying with their first home game of the Hexagonal against none other than the leaders Costa Rica.

Here is what to watch for in Mexico’s game against the Ticos.

What to watch for:

Injuries to wide players - Now Club America coach Ricardo Antonio La Volpe once said the biggest difference between this Mexico team and the one he coached was the amount of talent there is now on the wing. Long gone are the times when Mexico fans would go crazy for a 19-year-old Andres Guardado. He is right. Times have changed. Guardado no longer plays on the wing and now there is your Tecatitos and Hirving Lozanos leading the way.

In that regard, perhaps it is just bad luck and injuries decided to strike at the wrong time. For this match alone, Mexico coach Juan Carlos Osorio will be without Tecatito, Lozano, Javier Aquino, Marco Fabian, and Giovani dos Santos, all of whom are wide players or can exercise in wide positions. This is, undoubtedly, giving Osorio a big headache. So much of what we know about Osorio’s philosophy and Mexican fútbol in recent years depends largely on wing play.

Costa Rica, of course, means a serious challenge is on the cards for El Tri. Osorio might have to rely on a more direct approach, and early rumors suggest Chicharito and Oribe Peralta could start side by side with Carlos Vela. One of Peralta’s biggest strengths under La Volpe at America has been his energy and running. Here, he is going to have to do a lot of that to make up for the lack of a surging winger in the starting lineup.

Home sweet home? - There is little doubting about the historic importance of the Estadio Azteca, but is it time to move on? It is almost as if we are having this same discussion before every Mexico home game. This time, the Mexican federation decided to move their training sessions to Cuernavaca, Morelos with the intention to get the team away from the high-altitude of Mexico City. Interestingly, this was a a suggestion made by the players and not Juan Carlos Osorio.

In truth, Mexico just haven’t been generating the same intensity at the Estadio Azteca as years past, so the decision to move training away from Mexico City makes complete sense.

The problem, though, is how long will this last? Logistics aside, this makes the Azteca feel less of a home than anything else. The last time we saw the Azteca really rock to its foundations, Miguel Herrera became a popular meme.

Costa Rica deserve respect - It is often hard to decipher what Osorio is thinking, but one thing is for certain, Costa Rica is currently where Osorio and Mexico want to be: top of the Hexagonal.

This is the thing about Costa Rica. If you think that making the quarterfinals of a World Cup was a big shock, then you haven’t been watching them very long. It has been arguable for some time now that after Mexico, Costa Rica is the most technical side in the region (sorry USMNT).

For Costa Rica, this could prove a juncture game. They have already won at the Azteca before, and if they were to do it a second time, it would only make the obvious more obvious. Costa Rica is a really good side.