El Tri

Mexico vs Costa Rica: 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifying Final Round Match Preview

With the injuries piling up, El Tri heads into Friday’s World Cup Qualifier against Costa Rica a bit short-handed. Not only is El Tri missing the likes of Andres Guardado, Hirving Lozano, Jesus Manuel Corona, and Giovani Dos Santos for the match, but it also may have lost the services of center-back Hector Moreno for the match due to injury. Officially, Hector Moreno is a game time decision. But El Tri already knew before its latest string of injuries that it would miss starting center back Diego Reyes, who is suspended for the match due to his accumulation of yellow cards during the earlier games of the Hexagonal.

This leaves the question as whether the rotaciones Osorio has often used could be an asset to the team, with a number of defenders knowing that they can fill in for the injured Moreno, although only Carlos Salcedo, Nestor Araujo, and Oswaldo Alanis can directly fill into Moreno’s spot in the formation. The use of any other of Mexico’s defenders and volantes would rely on a change in how El Tri would deal, on a basic level, with a variety of Costa Rican attacks.

Given that Mexico and Costa Rica are the top two teams in the Hexagonal right now, there relatively little pressure for either, although there’s less for Costa Rica than there is for Mexico given Los Ticos‘ position as Hexagonal leaders. A win for Mexico would go a long way to improving their World Cup qualifying chances. A defeat, which would be the first time that Mexico would lose to Los Ticos in Mexico, could be especially damaging to the national selection’s collective mood if Honduras and Panama both win their matches.

While many would argue that Sporting CP attackers Bryan Ruiz and Joel Campbell are Los Ticos‘ most obvious danger men, the Costa Rica midfield and defensive cast of characters, many of whom are based in MLS or Spain, all play with enough of a sense of malice that a few moments of disorganization or playing the game in autopilot could result in an evening at the Estadio Azteca to forget for El Tri, if the Ticos manage to finish their chances. The Ticos used this formula to great success to defeat the United States in San Jose (Costa Rica) 4-0 back in November 2016.

It’s a feeling that was echoed when Oribe Peralte spoke with media after training on Tuesday. “Personally I do not care if we are lideres or not,” Peralta noted. “The important thing is to qualify the World Cup and do it in the best way getting as many points as possible.”

With Andres Guardado injured, and the potential for an outside defender to be moved inward, Costa Rica could try to hurt Mexico from overloads down its right, or breakdowns between between outside players and defenders when Costa Rica intercepts a Mexico buildup. However, the inclusion of Orbelin Pineda and Luis Ernesto Reyes in the side gives not only additional cover in central midfield areas and wide areas, but it gives Mexico an opportunity to hurt Costa Rica when they want to with players who are brave enough and futbol-savvy enough to do so.

The move calculations have to also be well-timed, as Real Madrid netminder Keylor Navas will likely be between the posts for Los Ticos. Navas is a danger not only because of his shot-stopping and world-class play-reading skills, but because he has improved in his sweeping duties. If a Costa Rica attacker, particularly Campbell, Ruiz, or even Johan Venegas or Christian Bolanos, finds himself in a position to break the Mexico defensive line, Navas is capable of picking his head up to find him in a 1-vs-1 situation on the Mexico goalkeeper, whoever that goalkeeper might be.

And the familiarity Los Ticos’ players have with each other on that level, could make it worrisome for Osorio’s side. As Marco Urena noted, Los Ticos are “a national team with a lot of time together, we know each other well.

But El Tri itself may not necessarily need its goalkeeper, whether it is Alfredo Talavera, Jesus Corona, or Guillermo Ochoa, to keep it in the game. Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez is back to his scoring form, and Orbelin, Rafael Marquez, Jurgen Damm, Carlos Vela, Jesus Duenas, and company can find enough ways to create the kind of dangerous goal-scoring chances and finish them in ways that it might not matter the defense is breached early and often.

El Tri also has to be wary of its players’ yellow card situations, as Hector Herrera, Miguel Layun, and Carlos Vela could be suspended for the match against Trinidad and Tobago if they pick up a yellow card against Los Ticos. For Costa Rica, they risk losing defenders Cristian Gamboa and Ronald Matarrita for their match against Honduras if they find their way into the referee’s book.

Friday’s World Cup qualifier kicks off at 8:00 PM Eastern DST (7:00 PM Central DST, 5:00 PM Pacific DST) and can be seen on TV in English on Fox Sports 1, Spanish on UniMas and Univision Deportes Network, and streamed on Fox Sports GO, Univision Deportes (app), Fubo TV, and Sling TV.




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