Despite winning only two matches in the CONCACAF qualifying group, Mexico still have a shot at making the World Cup, if they can get past New Zealand in the Intercontinental playoffs. However, this has been made possible by the United States with a dramatic 3-2 win over Panama, and not by El Tri, who lost their biggest match of the campaign 2-1 in Costa Rica, needing a little outside assistance to keep their hopes intact for a bit longer.
It’s been one long and disastrous campaign for the Mexican national team, finishing fourth in the fourth round of the North-Central American qualifying group, scoring a total of 7 goals through the 10 matches, needing a fantastic 85th minute goal from Raul Jimenez to beat Panama 2-1 in a do-or-die match. Yet the shackles on their feet; the weight on their shoulders, and all the negativity from the last two years, even after replacing their head coach, with Víctor Manuel Vucetich replacing interim coach Luis Fernando Tena coming in for the disappointing José Manuel de la Torre.
Before the final two matches, the group picture was clear: The United States and Costa Rica have already qualified, having nothing to play for in their matches against Panama and Mexico. Honduras, travelling to last-place Jamaica, needed only one point to clinch the automatic qualifying spot. Mexico were fourth with 11 points, needing one point to secure their place in the playoffs against New Zealand, and a win and some luck to overtake Honduras. Panama needed to win and for Mexico to lose in order to finish fourth and leave Mexico out of the picture.
18th Minute in Panama City: Gabriel Torres, who plays for the Colorado Rapids in the MLS, opens the scoring for Panama. The United States aren’t fielding their strongest lineup, and at this moment, with things still at 0-0 in San Jose, this Panamanian lead isn’t enough.
Meanwhile, Bryan Ruiz’ fantastic opening goal for Costa Rica is quickly cancelled out by Oribe Peralta of Mexico, keeping things level, and Mexico in fourth place. Ten minutes earlier a Chicharito goal was ruled out for offside, but his embarrassing takeover of the ball showed just how much pressure the Mexican national team is under. However, in the second half, Alvoro Saborio scores for Costa Rica, as the helpless Mexico seem like they keep waiting for good news from Panama. It didn’t come, as Luis Tejada scored in the 83rd minute to give Panama the lead, and at the moment, the fourth place.
But even though there’s plenty of hatred, in football at least, between the United States and the Mexican team, the Americans don’t play for result, and if there was some hidden directive to lose in order to keep Mexico out of the World cup, the players on the field didn’t comply. Graham Zusi scored two minutes into injury time and Aron Jóhannsson completed the job, sparking celebrations among Mexican fans in Costa Rica, and one incredible tirade by the Mexican commentator against El Tri, despite making it through.