Action from the World Cup qualifier between host Costa Rica (red) and Mexico on October 15, 2013, at the Estadio Nacional in San Jose. (Photo: Imagenes en Costa Rica)
SAN JOSE, Costa Rica – Costa Rica notched a memorable 2-1 victory over visiting Mexico at the Estadio Nacional on Tuesday in the last matchday of qualifying in CONCACAF for the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
While the Ticos had previously booked a ticket to Brazil, Mexico was on the verge of failing to qualify for the first time since 1990. A late rally by archrival United States, though, handed El Tri a lifeline when Graham Zusi and Aron Johansson scored stoppage time goals in a 3-2 win at Panama.
After Mexico had a goal called back for offside, Bryan Ruiz put Cost Rica in front in the 25th minute, taking a deflected cross by Joel Campbell off his head, turning inside and putting a left-footed effort over Mexican goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa. It was the Costa Rican captain’s third goal of the Hexagonal.
El Tri leveled four minutes later on a sequence that started with Javier Hernandez being played behind the Ticos defense by Carlos Pena. Keilor Navas came off his line to challenge the Manchester United forward. He got has hand on the ball, but directed it towards Oribe Peralta, who blasted a left-footed shot that deflected off the crossbar and partially off Michael Umana before it landed inside the net.
Hernandez had another chance in the 42nd minute, however, he put a first-time volley off the outside netting.
In the first minute of first-half stoppage time, another penetrating run by Campbell found an open Christian Bolaños, only for the midfielder to fire wide of the target from 12 yards out.
Mexico coach Victor Manuel Vucetich brought on Raul Jimenez for Hernandez on the hour mark, hoping the Club America forward could strike once again like he did with a bicycle kick against Panama on Friday.
But it was Costa Rica’s Alvaro Saborio who delivered four minutes later, latching onto a cross from Cristian Gamboa and putting an open header past Ochoa from the edge of the six-yard box for his team-leading eighth qualifying goal.
The visitors desperately tried to knot the score and nearly did so in the 66th minute. Navas, though, lunged to his right to parry away a Jimenez header.
Mexico was saved at the death by the United States and will now take on New Zealand in a two-legged playoff series next month.