El Tri ventures to San Jose knowing that its chances of securing fourth place in the CONCACAF Hexagonal and an intercontinental playoff with New Zealand are favorable.With one bicycle kick, Mexico's World Cup fate suddenly went from dark and dreary to bright and favorable.
El Tri appeared on the verge of dropping even more points at Estadio Azteca and facing a situation where even a win in its last qualifying match would not have guaranteed a thing, but Raul Jimenez's heroics against Panama on Friday have changed Mexico's outlook considerably heading into Tuesday's Hexagonal finale in Costa Rica.
With a draw, Mexico would secure fourth place in the Hex and a spot in an intercontinental playoff with New Zealand next month. With a win, and a Honduras loss in Jamaica while overcoming a goal differential of two, Mexico could find its way into automatic qualification for Brazil 2014 with a third-place finish. Even with a loss, Panama would need to defeat the United States and overcome a goal differential of two to knock Mexico out of contention altogether.
Suffice it to say, El Tri is inches away from breathing a sigh of relief, but that does not mean the job is done just yet.
Victor Manuel Vucetich's charges head to San Jose to take on a Costa Rica side that has already sealed its qualification to Brazil and can finish no lower than third in the Hex even after a 1-0 loss to Honduras on Friday. Los Ticos have a full-strength side despite already qualifying, with the likes of Fulham attacker Bryan Ruiz and Real Salt Lake star forward Alvaro Saborio leading the front line.
Mexico's revamped roster, which includes veteran center back Rafa Marquez, will head to Estadio Nacional with a wave of momentum. One of the major decisions Vucetich will have to make is whether he will promote his hero, Jimenez, to a starting role at the expense of someone like Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez, who missed a penalty kick against Panama Friday that could have sealed that match earlier on.