Everything was going according to plan for Mexico for the first 75 minutes of their match against Honduras, but El Tri blew their two-goal lead and left San Pedro with just a draw.
The team will have to reflect on missed opportunities during the flight back to Mexico City, and once the players are back on the ground, they will need to get ready for a crucial match against the United States on Tuesday.
Javier Hernandez knocked in two goals to give Mexico a comfortable lead, but once he was taken off in the 65th minute, Honduras started surging. Carlos Costly delivered a fantastic header off a corner kick to pull his country within one goal, then he made a piercing run to win a penalty kick a few minutes later.
Jerry Bengston did not take his attempt well, but the ball bounced directly back to his feet following Guillermo Ochoa’s save, and the Honduran striker passed the ball into an empty net to equalize.
Now, El Tri has started off the Hexagonal with two consecutive draws. This in itself does not put the team’s chances to reach Brazil in much jeopardy, as there is plenty of time to make up points in the 10-match round.
However, this late collapse is the type of event that can cause frustration within a team and lead to a hangover for the next match. If this happens, and Mexico plays poorly against the United States, the mood surrounding El Tri will turn sour very fast.
Losing to the United States would still not be a nail in the coffin for Mexico’s qualifying hopes, but it would leave the team in a severely unfavorable situation.
The margin for error going forward would be slim, and Azteca’s mystique would be irreversibly damaged. The legendary stadium in Mexico City is one of the cathedrals of international soccer, and it has been one of El Tri’s greatest advantages over CONCACAF teams—especially the United States.
But the Americans earned their first ever victory on the hallowed grounds in a friendly this past August. A second win at Azteca would give the United States an unprecedented amount of confidence in future matchups, and it would be a demoralizing defeat for Mexico.
A loss on Tuesday would see the El Tri players departing in poor form. They would return to their respective clubs, and would have to find a way to elevate their play upon their return to international competition in June.
This is not a position the team wants to be in.
Drawing Honduras did not put Mexico in danger of missing out on the 2014 World Cup, but it certainly wasn’t a step in the right direction. Now, the pressure is on to beat the United States.