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Mexico closes out European tour with victory over Costa Rica

Mexico left it late but got a 1-0 win over Costa Rica in their last friendly in Europe.

Costa Rica v Mexico - International Friendly Photo by Christian Hofer/Getty Images

Mexico struggled but were able to get a 1-0 win over Costa Rica in their second and last friendly of their March European tour. Mexico was the better side for most of the match, but continued to suffer from a lack of offense. Costa Rica gave a better run than expected, although the key to the match was Mexico’s substitutions that turned the game completely around and had Mexico dominating the last 20 minutes. Mexico concludes their FIFA dates and will now wait until May to return to action, with friendlies before the CONCACAF Nations league where they are set to play against Costa Rica again.

The first half started with Mexico making a lot of changes, including a completely different starting midfield from the game against Wales. Jesus Corona, Hirving Lozano, and Carlos Salcedo were the only players to have started both matches. After a couple of even minutes at the start Mexico started to take control of the possession, although without creating much danger. The game started to get chippy with a hard tackle from Kendall Waston on Lozano earning him a yellow card. After many minutes of controlling the match, Mexico finally got an opportunity when a Corona cross found Gerardo Arteaga, but his right footed shot went well wide. Later it would be Lozano who had a shot from outside the area but it too went wide. After a couple of minutes Costa Rica had a dangerous play when a Joel Campbell cross was lowered into the area, but Johan Venegas couldn’t decide and the ball was scrambled in the area before Mexico’s goalkeeper Alfredo Talavera got to the ball. Mexico looked to have the better opportunity when a cross by Luis Romo into the area found Lozano, whose header was saved by Keylor Navas but it was ruled a foul. The halftime whistle blew, and once again Mexico controlled possession but didn’t create much if any danger with it.

The second half started with Mexico coming out with the same lineup while Costa Rica made two substitutions as Ariel Lassiter and Ronald Matarrita were subbed in. After a couple of even minutes, Mexico had their first chance when Jesus Corona got a low shot off the ground but it went wide. Later Mexico looked to have a good opportunity after a combination play between Lozano and Jorge Sanchez, but a cross from Sanchez didn’t find anyone, the problem of coming out without a true forward being evident in that play. Lozano then had an opportunity with a shot from outside the area but it went wide. Costa Rica started to improve and even dominate possession, including having the best opportunity in the game when Bryan Ruiz got a free header that he wasted. Mexico then subbed out Rodolfo Pizarro, who had another awful performance, for Diego Lainez. Minutes later, Mexico subbed out Jonathan Dos Santos and Erick Gutierrez for Hector Herrera and Orbelin Pineda. They almost had an immediate impact when in their first play, both of them combined to find Lozano in the area but his shot was saved by Navas. Off of a corner kick, Joel Campbell took a great cross that turned into a shot and forced Talavera to make a save. Mexico responded with a great individual play from Pineda that ended with a shot from Romo that went just wide. Then Mexico had their best offensive spell when they hit the post three times in a play. After a corner kick, Lozano took a shot and hit the post. The rebound then fell to Hector Moreno who also hit the post and then after a couple of rebounds, Pineda would get a long range shot that also bounced off the post. Later another great combination play ended with a shot by Lozano that came close. Mexico was looking the most dangerous of any point of the entire match. Mexico then subbed out Jesus Corona for Efrain Alvarez, making his debut in the Senior National Team. Mexico had a great opportunity off a corner kick, when it ended with Romo wasting a pass from close range. The last minutes had Mexico pushing Costa Rica into their area as they looked desperately for a goal. Then in a corner kick that Diego Lainez took, that Carlos Salcedo headed into close range for Hirving Lozano to rise and head from close range past Keylor Navas for the 1-0 lead. Costa Rica then subbed out Joel Campbell for Suhander Zuñiga. Costa Rica then had a chance when a ball fell in the area for Allan Cruz but his header went wide. Costa Rica tried, but they ran out of time and Mexico was able to get a deserved win.

Mexico ends their European tour with a record of one win and one loss. Coach Gerardo Martino didn’t seem to do as good a job as he had done in past Euro tours, and fans seem to not be thrilled with some of his decisions. The calling up of MLS players who are out of season was criticized before the friendlies, and they seemed to have proven those fears right. Rodolfo Pizarro gave two of the worst performances by a National team player in a while in both games against Wales and Costa Rica. Jonathan Dos Santos also didn’t have a good game against Costa Rica, and Alan Pulido got injured. It seemed that Efrain Alvarez, who many questioned before the call up, ended up giving the best performance of the MLS players. The worst decision by Martino was the fact he only called up two center forwards in Henry Martin and Alan Pulido. To only have two players at such an important position seemed strange, especially when they took four goalkeepers and it ended up costing the team dearly as both Martin and Pulido missed both games with injuries. This meant that Mexico had no true forward and Lozano had to do the job, which ended up hampering Mexico. Martino will now have to work for the Nations League, where Mexico will once again face Costa Rica in the semifinal of the Final Four. Mexico will play friendlies before the match, although they are far from being announced at this point in time. Mexico will need to work a lot, especially Martino, as the team will have to improve against teams like Wales and Costa Rica which will sit back and not give Mexico space, the exact same strategy teams will have against Mexico in all World Cup qualifiers.