Mexico's hopes of qualifying for the World Cup are still alive, thanks to their hated rivals, the United States. While Mexico were very poor in a 2-1 loss to Costa Rica on Tuesday, they were bailed out by the Americans, who scored twice in stoppage time against Panama.
When stoppage time began, Mexico were about to be eliminated from World Cup contention. Two minutes later, they had a playoff date with New Zealand without having to work for it.
Costa Rica was the dominant team in the early going in San Jose, though they never forced 'Memo' Guillermo Ochoa into any difficult saves during their promising early spell. Mexico did well to weather the storm and, despite the fact that three goals were scored in the game, they created and missed the best chance of the evening in the 18th minute. 'Chicharito' Javier Hernandez inexplicably missed what should have been a tap-in on an empty net that was set up by Oribe Peralta, and Peralta was flagged for offside when he tapped in Hernandez's miss.
Seven minutes later, the Ticos made Mexico pay for failing to capitalize on their opportunity. Bryan Ruiz took advantage of some space in the penalty area in the 25th minute and struck a perfect shot past Ochoa from 12 yards, putting Mexico behind.
Impressively, El Tri were able to answer just as quickly as they had gifted Costa Rica a lead following Chicharito's error. Once again, Mexico's star striker failed to make the most of a good chance as he miscontrolled the ball trying to round Keylor Navas in the box in the 29th minute, but Peralta was in a good position to clean up the scraps. He struck a ball against the crossbar that bounced off a Costa Rica defender and into the back of the net, sending the two sides into halftime tied up at 1-1.
Ruiz had to exit the game in the 49th minute after picking up a knock and was replaced by Alvaro Saborio, a less technical player but more of a true center forward. He showed off his finishing instincts in the 64th minute, poking home a cross from Christian Gamboa to put the Ticos back on top. He made a perfect run, splitting Rafael Marquez and Hugo Ayala to position himself for an unmarked shot, which he converted perfectly.
Costa Rica continued to assault the Mexico goal in the minutes that followed, but couldn't find an instant third goal to secure the result. Ochoa came up with an important save on Saborio in the 69th minute, but couldn't do anything to slow down a shot from Christian Bolaños in the 74th minute. Thankfully for El Tri, that effort bounced off the post. Ochoa came up with another big save in the 87th minute, denying a Bolaños effort from just outside the box.
While Ochoa was excellent, he got almost no help from his teammates, who struggled to create chances despite Mexico being in the most desperate of situations. Incredibly, they weren't made to pay for their ineptitude at all.
Costa Rica: Navas, Acosta, Gonzalez, Umaña, Oviedo, Gamboa, Borges, Tejada (Cubero 72'), Ruiz (Saborio 49'), Bolaños, Campbell (Barrantes 77')
Goals: Ruiz (25'), Saborio (64')
Mexico: Ochoa, Torres Nilo (Brizuela 73'), Marquez, Ayala, Layun, Zavala, Pena, Gimenez, Aquino (dos Santos 67'), Peralta, Hernandez (Jimenez 60')
Goals: Peralta (29')