Tom Marshall: Nerve-wracking Tuesday in cards for misfiring Mexico

Mexico enters Tuesday's match in Costa Rica with momentum from Raul Jimenez's dramatic winner over Panama, but one slip-up could cost El Tri a place in the 2014 World Cup.
“Sometimes they think they are Spain,” was Costa Rica forward Joel Campbell’s assessment of Mexico ahead of Tuesday’s showdown in Estadio Nacional. “Mexicans have to learn to show respect.

“Now they have to come and suffer in Costa Rica.”

It was a neat insight into what not just Campbell but perhaps others in Costa Rica and Central America think about the current plight of a rival that has traditionally earned the “giant” title in CONCACAF, but comes into the last game of the Hexagonal battered, bruised and knowing that one more slip up could cost it a place at Brazil 2014.

For El Tri it is likely to be a tortuous evening, with Costa Rica motivated by the possibility of knocking Mexico out of the World Cup, after walking through Friday’s loss in the intense heat of Honduras.

Mexico is guaranteed a playoff against New Zealand with a draw, but a loss against Los Ticos – who have won all four home games in the Hex so far, conceding just once – and it is Panama that goes through providing it can get a victory against the United States in Panama City.

With the Stars and Stripes already qualified in the top spot and Los Canaleros not having lost at home, Panama has a good chance at sealing victory, especially if it can replicate Friday’s performance in Estadio Azteca. For Mexico, managing the pressure will be a massive factor, as will how coach Victor Manuel Vucetich approaches the game.

Former Mexico coach Ricardo La Volpe was quoted in Record saying that Mexico has to go on the attack and look for the victory, while Tomas Boy, a previous candidate to take over from Jose Manuel “Chepo” de la Torre, talked to Marca about the disappointment of Giovani Dos Santos and Javier Hernandez in the final third.

There are plenty of such decisions that Vucetich has to get right all over the field, with the knowledge that Friday’s 2-1 victory over Panama was not substantially better than past games this year under Chepo in terms of actual play.

That must be a worry for the astute former Monterrey coach. In terms of formation, Vucetich is a pragmatic coach and may not play two central strikers in a tough away game, instead introducing a third central midfielder, potentially the hard-working but creative Lucas Lobos.

The battle for the striking role is now a three-way one, with Chicharito’s grip on the position slipping due to Oribe Peralta and Raul Jimenez’s good form and goals last Friday against Panama. Other important decisions to be made surround whether to stick with Javier Aquino on the left wing or put in Christian “Chaco” Gimenez from the start, how to get more out of Dos Santos and who should partner Rafa Marquez in the heart of the Mexican defense.

As Campbell pointed out, there can certainly be no sense of entitlement for Mexico at this stage. El Tri is in a dogfight, with a fine line separating it from failure on Tuesday.