By JUSTIN FERGUSON
After another draw in which they failed to find the back of the net, the members of the Mexican national team hoped to change their World Cup Qualifying fate Tuesday night in their return to the famed Estadio Azteca.
But after 90+ minutes of scoreless action, El Tri was left with more questions than answers heading into next week’s Confederations Cup campaign.
Mexico played out a scoreless draw with former HEX leaders Costa Rica, giving them three 0-0 finishes in three home matches in this final round of CONCACAF qualifying. Fans booed and called for the firing of manager Jose Manuel De la Torre as time ran out on Tuesday evening, just hours before the team’s scheduled departure for Brazil.
While Mexico pushed hard for a way to end their home goal drought, Costa Rica looked closer to scoring for most of the match on Tuesday. Joel Campbell had a busy yet frustrating night in front of goal, cracking the post with a shot just four minutes in and firing a dangerous shot to goalkeeper Jose Corona midway through the first half.
The misfiring Mexico offense had a handful chances to break the deadlock in the second half, but the visitors were the more dangerous team throughout. While Mexico’s best chance of the evening was deflected out just minutes after the break, Campbell’s side netting blast was one of several close calls for the home defense.
A match that started late due to Costa Rica travel issues ended with seven minutes of stoppage time. During the second half, a Bryan Ruiz corner kick was delayed for a lengthy period due to a number of home fans throwing objects at the Los Ticos captain.
With one more qualifier played than everyone except Jamaica, Mexico will know its full situation after next week’s round of qualifying. As it stands right now, third-place Mexico is two points behind the now-leading United States and trailing second-place Costa Rica on goal differential.
Elsewhere, Honduras reclaimed the playoff-bound fourth-place spot in the HEX table with a 2-0 home win over Jamaica.
Houston Dynamo midfielder Oscar Boniek Garcia gave the hosts the lead in the 10th minute, giving the last-place Reggae Boyz an uphill battle from the outset.
Portland Timbers goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts kept his side in the match with a pair of top-notch saves, denying a determined Honduras squad from doubling their lead.
However, the veteran was doomed when the hosts finally found that second goal. A bad backpass ended at the feet of young striker Roger Rojas, who sealed Honduras’s win with an easy 88th-minute strike. Jamaica, who went down a man in the 76th minute on a second Adrian Mariappa yellow card, was unable to muster up any drama as the hosts celebrated a huge bounce-back victory.
Fourth-place Honduras now leads Panama by one point for the playoff spot in the table and is only behind Costa Rica and Mexico by one for a guaranteed ticket to Brazil 2014. Last-place Jamaica, on the other hand, is looking like an elimination lock with just two points and one more match played than everyone except Mexico.
What did you think of Friday’s matches? Do you feel like “Chepo” de la Torre is in real danger of losing his job? Stunned at Mexico’s continued offensive woes? Think Honduras can hold onto a qualifying spot? Any early predictions for next week’s CONCACAF qualifiers?
Share your thoughts below.