Heading in to tonight’s qualifier, Mexico needed a point over a tough Costa Rica squad to ensure their place in the play-off game against New Zealand to clinch a spot in the World Cup, but there was still a chance for El Tri to advance even with a loss to the Ticos. Of course, that would require rooting for the United States men’s national team to knock of Panama, so El Tri prefered to take things into their own hands.
In the first half, Mexico came out very aggressive and was looking for the early opportunities, but it was the Costa Rican squad that struck first and had El Tri fans nervous. Bryan Ruiz hit a left-footed shot into the top corner of the net to give Costa Rica up one to nil and put the Mexicans on the brink of elimination.
However, Oribe Peralta was able to work his magic again and send a shot from deep in the box right under the upright and past Keylor Navas for the equalizer.
With the score tied 1-1, Mexico was fighting hard to net another goal and get the halftime advantage, but Chicharito failed to put away two quality scoring opportunities that kept things even with 45 minutes to go and so much still on the line.
Mexico was on their heels early in the second half, but they were able to use well-timed counter attacks to charge deep into the Ticos territory for scoring chances. Unfortunately for El Tri, nothing came from the early chances and Costa Rica continued to keep their foot on the gas.
Guillermo Ochoa came up huge for the Mexican side with some key stops on second-half scoring chances for the Ticos, which created opportunities for El Tri on the other side of the pitch. Midway through the second half, as the Mexicans looked to hang on to their point, Raúl Jiménez came is as a sub for Chicharito.
The the late change didn’t help the Mexican side, however, as Costa Rica was able to use a beautiful ball into the box that set up the Tico’s own substitute, Alvaro Saborío, for a go-ahead goal.
Mexico drove right back down the pitch for a brilliant opportunity of their own, but Keylor Navas came up with a huge save for Costa Rica. The good news for El Tri was that the United States scored an equalizer in their match up with Panama to keep the Mexicans in the World Cup picture.
It was getting intense down on the field as the final minutes began to count down and Costa Rica almost put a nail in the coffin for this game, but the sloppy turf provided just enough resistance to keep the ball out of the Mexican net and clink off the post.
It was desperation time for El Tri as Panama scored a go-ahead goal in the final minutes against the United States, so all of the pressure was on.
El Tri needed a break through in the final minutes if they wanted to keep their World Cup hopes alive, but they struggled to mount any serviceable attack. As the time trickled away, El Tri had one more shot to score the equalizer and stay in the World Cup mix, but the Mexicans once again faltered.
However, in an unbelievable twist of fate. the Americans were able to even the score with a stoppage time goal to send Mexico into the play-off against New Zealand, despite El Tri faltering 2-1. To pad it on, The Americans tacked on another late goal to put them ahead 3-2 and seal the deal for El Tri.
What an unbelievable night of soccer.