It wasn’t pretty, but Mexico got a key victory in San Pedro Sula against Honduras by a 1-0 score. Mexico is assured of at least making the playoff, but barring a very rare circumstances on Wednesday, they should be qualified to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. Even with the victory, Mexico didn’t play well and fans will be clamoring for improvement for Coach Gerardo Martino, who didn’t make the trip to Honduras as a medical procedure has him unable to fly. Mexico will close out their World Cup qualification in Estadio Azteca on Wednesday against El Salvador, while Honduras travels to Jamaica to end their campaign.
The first half started with Mexico coming out with the same starting 11 that they had in their match against the United States. Mexico continued with the trio of Raul Jimenez, Jesus Corona, and Hirving Lozano up top, and kept the defense with no changes. Honduras came out with a severely hampered squad after losing Romell Quioto because of a positive COVID 19 test. A ball in the area fell to Corona, but he headed it back and it was cleared by the Honduras’ defense. Later, Corona got really close when his left footed shot from outside the area went just wide. A cross into the area was then cut off by a Honduran defender before it got to Jimenez. The game was very even, with Honduras sitting back and Mexico having a harsh time making their game on the wet field with very tall grass. After Jimenez lost the ball, Hector Herrera was forced to make a foul and got a yellow card, causing him to be suspended for the match against El Salvador. Mexico was completely dominating possession against the Honduras side that was bunkering, but they were also doing a very poor job of creating any danger. They were very imprecise in their passing, as bad as any game they have played throughout the year. Mexico came close when a pass by Herrera ended going to Corona, who got off a left footed shot that hit Jimenez, who then got off a right footed shot that was blocked by an Honduras defender. A cross into the area was headed wide by Jimenez. In a wasted chance, Corona crossed into the area and Jimenez failed to get to the ball, allowing a defender to clear it. It was a bad move by Jimenez, who looked hesitant, making people wonder if the injury had taken a toll in his inability to risk going for the ball. It was the last play and after a very poor first half, the match remained scoreless.
The second half started with Honduras subbing out Kervin Arriaga for Edwin Rodriguez. Mexico had the first chance when a shot from Herrera went just wide. Honduras answered by getting the ball in the area, where Kevin Lopez got off a left footed shot that forced Mexico goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa to make a save. It was Honduras’ first chance of the match, and also the first save of the game. Mexico had their best chance of the game when a cross by Lozano found Corona, who got past his defender and got off a right footed shot that was brilliantly saved by Honduras’ goalkeeper Luis Lopez. They had another chance when a cross was headed by Corona, but it was saved by Lopez. Honduras subbed out Cristian Sacaza for Alexander Lopez. Mexico wasted a three-on-three on a bad pass that forded Lozano to try to cut into the area, resulting in his shot being blocked. A cross into the area from Jorge Sanchez was just out of reach for Jimenez. After a couple of bounces in the area, Edson Alvarez got a shot from outside the area that was just wide. Mexico subbed out Jesus Corona and Carlos Rodriguez (who had a very poor match) for Uriel Antuna and Diego Lainez. Later Honduras subbed out Kevin Lopez and Angel Tejeda for Edwin Solano and Junior Locayo. Then off of a corner kick, Hector Herrera got a cross that Edson Alvarez was able to head past Lopez for the 1-0 lead. Replays confused people and at times it looked like it was an own goal and Alvarez laid claim to it. Off of a header, Jimenez once again came close to scoring but it went wide. Mexico subbed out Raul Jimenez and Hirving Lozano for Henry Martin and Erick Gutierrez. Honduras meanwhile subbed out Bryan Acosta for Gerson Chavez. Mexico wasted a great chance when a superb cross by Herrera found Johan Vasquez, who headed it wide from close range in a terrible miss. Honduras tried to get their goal but they didn’t even come close to getting a chance, and the match ended with the 1-0 win for Mexico.
Mexico’s streak of bad performances continued with a poor display in Honduras. Mexico dominated possession, but failed to create much danger for a second consecutive game. The trio of Lozano, Corona, and Jimenez isn’t playing well, with Jimenez having a specially poor match in Honduras as the tough field conditions didn’t do the team any favors. That being, said the important thing was the win which keeps them at third place but tied with 25 points with second placed United States. The most important thing is that Mexico is virtually qualified to the World Cup. With the win, the only way they get to play in the playoff would be a big win by Costa Rica at home against the United States and a bad loss at home for Mexico against El Salvador. A tie or a win against El Salvador guarantees Mexico their place in Qatar. Mexico also has a +7 goal differential to Costa Rica’s +3, which means that should Mexico lose against El Salvador (for only the third time in their history in Estadio Azteca), they will also have to make up the goal differential against the United States. So Mexico took a huge step on Sunday, but they will need to improve by a large margin should they have a chance of doing anything in the World Cup.