In advance of its World Cup qualifier the next day, Mexico trains at the Estadio Nacional in San Jose, Costa Rica, on October 14, 2013. (Photo: Mexsport)
SAN JOSE, Costa Rica -- Raul Jimenez’s dramatic “chilena” might have kept Mexican World Cup hopes intact, but the late winner against Panama at the Estadio Azteca on Friday didn’t clinch a berth for El Tri.
Mexico heads into the final match of its CONCACAF Hexagonal schedule at already qualified Costa Rica on Tuesday, facing three possible scenarios. They are in fourth place in the standings -- three points clear of the Panamanians -- and could either directly qualify for Brazil 2014, enter into an Intercontinental Playoff or be eliminated entirely.
“Our goal is to go through and we will seek to win against Costa Rica,” head coach Victor Manuel Vucetich said.
Honduras will seal the confederation’s third and final automatic World Cup berth with a win or draw at last-place Jamaica. The consequence of that occurrence would oblige Mexico to win or draw against the Ticos to set-up a two-leg series with New Zealand for a spot next year in Brazil. A Mexico loss combined with a Panama win over the U.S. will see the CONCACAF power not participate in the World Cup for the first time since 1990.
“I can’t imagine a bigger game than this one against Costa Rica,” said goal-hero Jimenez. “We have to go there, and we have to win. We can’t control all of the factors in the other games, but we must do what we can, and that is come away from San Jose with all three points.”
Mexico and Costa Rica played to a 0-0 draw at the Azteca on June 11. Since that match, the current Central American champion beat both Panama and the United States at Estadio Nacional and then played Jamaica to a 1-1 draw on the road to earn a berth to the 2014 World Cup.
The Mexicans went the other way, losing to Honduras (2-1) in Mexico City and the United States (2-0) in Columbus, resulting in a change of management with Vucetich being named the full-time replacement for Jose Manuel de la Torre.
The win over Panama gave the Tricolor new life, but it will need a point in San Jose.
“We have to give it our all to get the three points,” said Oribe Peralta, who scored the first goal for Mexico on Friday.
On this occasion, anything less may not be good enough.