CUERNAVACA, Mexico — Juan Carlos Osorio and the Mexico national team expect a resolute Costa Rica when the teams meet in a World Cup qualification match Friday in Mexico City.
While he didn’t go as far as goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa, who said he expects the Ticos to sit back like many teams that have visited the Estadio Azteca looking to hit on the counterattack, Mexico coach Osorio believes Costa Rica will hold firm Friday.
Part of that is because of the Ticos' attackers, including MLS standouts Johan Venegas of Minnesota United, Rodney Wallace of New York City FC and Cristian Bolanos, of the Vancouver Whitecaps.
“First of all, we understand we are facing a great opponent. We prefer to talk about the behaviors they identify with. Surely, with the analysis we’ve done, the structure that has given them so many results in the past several years isn’t going to change,” Osorio said. “Three central defenders, good defensive permutations. The two wingers who can come in from where they’re playing. Central midfielders more there to distribute.
“If there’s something that right now stays with us, it’s the three forwards. They can play with Bryan Ruiz on the right or inside inverted. Bolanos inverted or wide. (Joel) Campbell could play, he had a good spell with Arsenal, he’s fast, good in transition. Venegas who we consider as one of the Central American players with the biggest future. And Wallace, who we believe can support the team a lot. It’s (Costa Rica coach Oscar) Ramirez’s decision who and how they’re going to play.”
The match will be El Tri’s first home showing of this final round of World Cup qualification and while the Estadio Azteca has historically been a very difficult place for visiting teams to get a result, Mexico found just one victory there when qualifying for the 2014 World Cup.
Ochoa said this time around things will be just as difficult, though he expects Mexico to be better prepared for the challenges it will face.
“The past Hex was as complicated as this one and the ones before that. There are no simple games or easy matches at home or on the road,” the goalkeeper said. “In the past Hex, we let a lot of points go at home where opponents always play us in the same way, playing back, waiting for us looking for an error to counterattack.”
Friday’s match begins at 9:50 p.m. ET, though the Mexican federation is encouraging fans to arrive early to participate in a card stunt and to make sure the stadium is filled when the national anthems play.