For several minutes Mexico saw their hopes to reach Brazil 2014 come tumbling down as they took on Costa Rica at the National stadium in San Jose, Costa Rica in the final game of the CONCACAF hexagonal. The FIFA World Cup Qualifier awarded three berths to Brazil and a playoff for the fourth place team.
Costa Rice defeated Mexico 2-1, the first time they had done so in 21 years in Central America. It is also the first time they defeat Mexico in a CONCACAF World Cup Qualifier since the infamous “Aztecaso” of 2001. The Ticos secured the second spot on the table.
The hero of the match was not on the pitch of the National stadium in San Jose, but on the field of the Rommel Fernandez stadium in Panama City, Panama. USMNT player Graham Zusi put the ball in the net in compensation time to give Mexico the pass. The goal ended Panama’s aspirations to reach the ultimate soccer tournament in the world.
El Tri must now face Oceania Football Confederation qualifier New Zealand. Mexico will host the “kiwis,” most likely at the Azteca stadium in the first leg. Then they must travel to Wellington for the final game and see if they can reach Brazil this way.
The pitch was not in the best condition as the rain fell constantly. This affected both squads with players constantly falling or kicking up grass as they cleared the ball. The field conditions cost both teams several scoring opportunities.
The fans were rabid as they had expressed desire to keep Mexico from reaching Brazil 2014. They went all out with cheers when Panamanian player Gabriel Torres put the ball past Brad Guzan in Panama. The goal was like a gift to the Costa Rican fans who blew the top off the National stadium when the scoreboard changed. The Ticos led 1-0, as did Panama. At this moment Mexico was out.
Bad wishes never fare well and Oribe Peralta hit the ball past Keylor Navas silencing the stadium temporarily. El Tri tasted their first six minutes of insecurity. The draw still put them into the playoff berth.
The hurt arrived at the 64th minute when Alvaro Saborio beat his marker and put the ball past Guillermo Ochoa to give Costa Rica the final 2-1. Mexico was out and looking for a miracle in Panama. Less than 10 minutes later Michael Orozco closed the gap in Panama. The Canaleros needed to win to move past Mexico, but Orozco had just hit the first nail in Panama’s coffin.
In San Jose neither team could get control as the ball continued to slip around the wet pitch. But time was Mexico’s biggest enemy. Their lack of game was their biggest enemy. The Costa Rican fans were their biggest enemy. Up against the wall it looked like there was no hope, the cup lost. No matter how well Carlos “Gulit” Peña charged and recovered the ball for El Tri, the game would not change.
The final minutes were announced in Panama City. The country dreamed of a shot at reaching Brazil. But out of nowhere Zusi closed the gap giving Mexico a defibrillating shock felt across the isthmus. Mexico had life once more, but not on the pitch of the National stadium in San Jose.
The goal ended a team’s dreams. It ended a nation’s dreams. Before the Panamanians could react to the goal Aron Johansson hit the final nail sealing the coffin, ending Panama’s Brazil 2014 hopes. In San Jose, El Tri could only see the scoreboard reflecting their regional and arch rival’s result. Thanks to Jurgen Klinsmann’s USMNT Mexico had another opportunity to reach Brazil 2014.
USA, Costa Rica and Honduras stamp their passport to Brazil, Mexico must face New Zealand for one final opportunity.