Mexico got off to a great start and later overcame a slow first half, giving a great performance in the second half to get a 3-0 victory over Costa Rica, giving them the ticket to the U23 CONCACAF Championship. Mexico was the better team throughout the match, improving a lot from their match against the Dominican Republic to get a key victory that gives them the spot in the semifinals, a match in which one of two tickets to the upcoming Olympic Games in Tokyo will be in play. Mexico will now play the United States, who booked their ticket to the semifinals earlier, in a match that would determine who wins the group. With the loss, Costa Rica is eliminated and will play their final match of the tournament against the Dominican Republic.
The first half started with Mexico coming out with the same starting lineup as their debut except with Vladimir Loroña starting instead of Alan Mozo. Injured striker Jose Juan Macias was not in the starting lineup, but was on the bench and eventually got some playing time. After a couple of even minutes, Mexico had a good chance when Alexis Vega got a cross that Uriel Antuna just failed to connect with. A minute later in a great play, Sebastian Cordova got a great through ball in the area and was able to then make a great pass into the area for Uriel Antuna to connect with from close range and score the 1-0 past Costa Rican goalkeeper Kevin Chamorro. Mexico would have another chance from Cordova, but his shot was blocked. Costa Rica would get their first chance when after a free kick got blocked by Mexico’s wall, they were able to sent a cross that Randall Leal just missed from connecting with in a play that could’ve been very dangerous had he connected. Mexico would get a ball and had a good opportunity that ended when Antuna’s shot got blocked. Later after Chamorro cleared a ball right into the path of Vega, he was forced to make a good save from Vega’s shot. After Mexico had dominated the possession, Costa Rica started to get more possession as they tried to get the tying goal. As the half continued Mexico started to regain possession, but didn’t do much with it as Costa Rica was able to get back and the offensive attacks became overly dependent on whatever Antuna could do. After a clash between Jose Esquivel and Luis Diaz, it looked like Diaz ended up injuredy and medical attention had to come in. Costa Rica would get their first shot of the half when a long range shot from Yurguin Roman forced Luis Malagon to make a save in the last minute of the half. The halftime whistle blew and after a great start from Mexico, the game had decreased in quality and had become more even.
The second half started with Mexico fans hoping for the local team to pick things up after slowing down considerably. Costa Rica meanwhile subbed out Marvin Loria for Jurguens Montenegro. After a couple of even minutes, a great play by Uriel Antuna got him past a couple of Costa Rican defenders but he lost the ball, only for it to get into the path of Alexis Vega. Vega hit a right footed long shot that went past the outstretched arm of Kevin Chamorro for the 2-0 lead. Costa Rica looked to react and subbed in Jimmy Marin and Randall Brenes for Alonso Martinez and Gerson Torres. Mexico had a good opportunity after a combination of passes found Antuna, who got into the area but his cross was cleared by a Costa Rican defender. Mexico made their first moves by subbing out Alexis Vega and Roberto Alvarado for Jose Juan Macias and Jesus Ricardo Angulo. A minute in, Mexico made their best play after a free kick left to an incredible counter attack that started with a pass from Luis Malagon found Carlos Rodriguez, who dribbled the ball and found Jesus Ricardo Angulo. Angulo then crossed the ball in the area to Rodriguez, who chested the ball in the area to Sebastian Cordova, who calmly got a left footed shot past Chamorro for the 3-0 lead. It was the best play from Mexico, who was finally showing their best level of play. With Costa Rica knowing elimination was close if the result held, they subbed out Luis Diaz for Manfred Ugalde. Mexico started to play with Costa Rica’s desperation to get opportunities, and it looked like Antuna was brought down in the area but no penalty kick was given by the referee. Minutes later he was subbed out for Alan Cervantes. Mexico could have gotten a good chance after a free kick fell to Vladimir Loroña, but his shot went wide. Costa Rica then had a good opportunity when Randall Leal took a free kick and the ball bounced in front of Malagon, forcing him to make a good save. Mexico made a sub by subbing out Johan Vasquez and Sebastian Cordova for Gilberto Sepulveda and Santiago Muñoz. Mexico continued to dominate as Costa Rica faltered, knowing they were eliminated from the Olympic games really hitting them. Minutes later the whistle blew and after playing their best half in the tournament, Mexico booked their ticket to the semifinals in the Olympic qualifiers.
Mexico was the better side on Sunday night, and got a comfortable victory over a Costa Rican side that couldn’t get back after a bad start led them to be trailing the game five minutes in. Mexico dominated possession but couldn’t do much in the first half until an early goal in the second half turned things around, and the team started to display the best football they’ve shown since the tournament started. Mexico thus has two comfortable wins and is now set to prepare for the semifinals. They will now face their biggest rival in the United States, in a game where a tie would still get Mexico first place in the group. Still with both teams already booking their ticket to the semifinals, the really important match of the tournament, there might be the need to make changes and rest players. Yet with Mexico being host and with having the stronger squad in the tournament, it might be a great opportunity for Mexico to get a win against the United States while also getting the win in the group, which is important as it should lead to the weaker rival in the semifinals. The good thing is that for Mexico there is a better point of view knowing they have the first of the two important tickets in their hands.