Mexico defeated Costa Rica 2-0 at the Estadio Azteca in an the third game of Hexagonal qualifying for the 2018 World Cup in Russia on Friday night.
While still early in hexagonal play, it was important for Juan Carlos Osorio and company to get a positive result at home. Hex leader Costa Rica was the ideal test for the occasion. Coupled with the fact that Osorio was short on flank players, this game provided a challenge for El Tri on paper.
Opposite of regular Miguel Layún, Carlos Salcedo was the improvised defensive back tasked with pushing balls up the flank and recovering defensively. While serviceable, Salcedo looked a bit off playing out of position. Rafael Márquez was solid as usual in distribution while Héctor Moreno was his consistent self. Néstor Araújo did an exceptional job of replicating his club form in providing an outlet to relieve Costa Rican pressure via solid distribution and scoring on a corner in the 45th minute. Araújo has already scored a few times for Santos in Liga MX.
Javier Hernández seemed to shake out of the funk he’s currently suffering at the club level and set the tone early as he vanquished the Costa Rican defense and former Real Madrid teammate Keylor Navas in the seventh minute. Carlos Vela worked well on the flank, and Oribe Peralta put in an industrial effort as he tracked back to doggedly fight back for possession of the ball. The same can be said for Jonathan dos Santos who was seemingly everywhere on the pitch and pushed up to pressure on occasion.
Héctor Herrera and Miguel Layún had inconsistent performances. Herrera showed flashes of his old, in-form self, but Layún’s play was oddly off. His distribution and tackling were not up to par with his usual performances with El Tri. The substitutes didn’t have much impact on the game, but could have. Both Jürgen Damm and Raúl Jiménez missed golden opportunities in front of goal late in the game.
Man of the Match: Javier Hernández
Hernández’s seventh minute score held great deal of meaning. Not only did he tie Jared Borgetti on the all time leading scorer list for El Tri, but he also set the tone at a crucial juncture for the team. It was crucial for Mexico to show it wasn’t about to be subjected to another stalemate at home, and a dose of early scoring was just what the fans and team needed. It was also a nice bit of vindication for a player who has struggled of late at the club level.
Here are the ratings for the entire Friday night squad:
Guillermo Ochoa: 7
Héctor Moreno: 7
Rafael Márquez: 7
Néstor Araújo: 8
Miguel Layún: 5
Carlos Salcedo: 6.5
Héctor Herrera: 6
Jonathan dos Santos: 7.5
Carlos Vela: 7.5
Oribe Peralta: 7
Javier Hernández: 8
Raúl Jiménez: 5
Jesus Molina: 6
Jürgen Damm: 5