Mexico got their second straight win after defeating Costa Rica 1-0 in San Jose. Mexico will continue atop the table after being the only CONCACAF team to get all six points from the two matches played so far in the 2022 World Cup Qualifiers. Mexico was the better side, but once again a lack of finishing ended up complicating things for them, with Mexico coming close to getting tied during the injury time of the second half. Yet it would have been an unfair result, as Mexico was clearly the superior side and got a key away win. Mexico will now travel to Panama where they will face a surprising second place Panamanian team that just comes off a 3-0 away win against Jamaica, which is the only other win for a team in CONCACAF so far.
The first half started with the return of Europe based Jesus Corona and Andres Guardado to the starting lineup, as they faced a tough matchup in a rainy San Jose. After a couple of even minutes, Mexico had their first opportunity when Corona got to a ball and got a cross into the area that Rogelio Funes Mori headed into the arms of Costa Rica’s goalkeeper Keylor Navas. Mexico then had a good opportunity when a shot by Carlos Rodriguez got deflected out for a corner kick. Mexico had another good opportunity when they got a three-on-two, but Alexis Vega’s cross was deflected out for another corner. Costa Rica then had the best chance of the game after a miss by Mexico allowed Bryan Ruiz a free shot from outside the area, but Mexico’s goalkeeper, Guillermo Ochoa made a good save. Mexico wasted a great opportunity when Costa Rica lost the ball and allowed Funes Mori to be alone in the area, but his shot was brilliantly by Navas although Funes Mori should have done better. Mexico was dominating possession and pushing Costa Rica back into their area. After a cross into the area, Funes Mori fell and asked for a penalty kick but it wasn’t given. Replays where a little tough to make out, but it did look like his shirt was pulled. With Costa Rica losing the ball, they started to start rough tackles and a tough tackle from Francisco Calvo looked to have hurt Vega. He got a yellow card, but Vega was injured and had to be taken out of the match and Orbelin Pineda had to come in. Then after a couple of minutes, it was Andres Guardado who got a bad kick in the area from a Costa Rica defender who missed the ball and straight kicked him. The ref gave Mexico a penalty kick. Pineda stepped up to take the penalty, and with a right footed shot fooled Navas and placed it in to make it 1-0. Mexico had taken a well deserved lead. Costa Rica answered back with a free kick in which Oscar Duarte reached the ball for a cross into the area, but no Costa Rican player reached it and the play had been called offside. Mexico took the 1-0 lead at halftime after a very good spell of play.
The second half started with Costa Rica subbing in Joel Campbell for Bryan Oviedo. Mexico could have had a good opportunity, but Pineda failed to shoot and instead attempted to cross to Funes Mori, but it allowed a Costa Rican defender to clear the ball. Mexico had a good counter attack with a three-on-two but Funes Mori crashed his pass into a Costa Rican defender. Costa Rica asked for a penalty after it looked like Edson Alvarez had handled the ball in the area, but it wasn’t given and replays showed that it was the correct call. Mexico had another three-on-three, but Guardado’s pass was deflected out for a corner kick. Costa Rica made their second move by subbing out Jonathan Moya for Jimmy Marin. Minutes later Mexico made their first move by subbing out Jesus Corona and Rogelio Funes Mori for Roberto Alvarado and Henry Martin. Then Mexico made their last move by subbing out Andres Guardado for Luis Romo. Costa Rica started to dominate possession as they needed the tying goal at home, and made moves by subbing out Randall Leal and Bryan Ruiz for Keysher Fuller and Juergens Montenegro. It almost paid off when a dangerous cross forced Ochoa to scramble to clear it. Mexico wasted a great counter attack when a possible three-on-one was ended when Martin sent his pass right to a Costa Rican defender. Costa Rica made their last move by subbing out Ricardo Blanco for Kendall Waston. Costa Rica then had the closest opportunity when a scramble in the area ended with a shot from Fuller that hit the post. Costa Rica had another one in the last minute, however the cross into the area didn’t find a Costa Rican player. Mexico held on after a disastrous injury time but a well played game overall and deservedly took the three points.
Mexico got a great result in getting their first away win in the World Cup Qualifiers against a good Costa Rica. Costa Rica is most likely the third best team in CONCACAF, and the fact they seem to be weaker this time shouldn’t take away that San Jose is a tough place to play and Mexico got a win for the first time in a World Cup Qualifier since 2012. Yet Mexico still needs to improve in some key aspects. It’s clear that starting forward Rogelio Funes Mori is not playing well, and his key miss in the first half really hurt the team; something that he might have made up for with his link up play but that wasn’t great either. Mexico will also have to see how bad Alexis Vega’s injury is, which will almost definitely have him out for the Panama match. Mexico will need to improve because they dominated for most of the match but the missing of key players could have cost Mexico in the last minutes when a Costa Rican scramble ended with two opportunities, something they never came close to doing for most of the 90 minutes. Mexico’s substitutions didn’t work out either, especially Roberto Alvarado who came on for Jesus Corona and definitely was a massive drop in quality. Mexico needs to improve against a Panama side that looks to be tougher as they will definitely be more physical and are in a good groove. Although on paper they are a weaker squad than Costa Rica, Mexico will have a tough game on Wednesday and they need to improve but so far so good.