Tied atop the Hexagonal standings, Mexico and Costa Rica will meet in a vital World Cup qualifying match on Tuesday evening.
The game is even more important for Mexico, however, as El Tri have played one more game than every team in the group except Mexico. A loss or draw at the Azteca in this contest and the team could have a battle on its hands to qualify for the 2014 World Cup.
For Costa Rica, coming into Mexico City and at least earning a draw would be a huge plus for their qualification hopes. Let's break down this crucial match.
When: Tuesday, June 11 at 7:30 p.m. ET
Where: Azteca Stadium, Mexico City, Mexico
Streaming: WatchESPN (Note: match is blacked out on ESPN3 in certain regions)
What They're Saying
Andrea Canales of ESPN has several takeaways from Mexico's disappointing draw against Panama. As you might guess, there were few positives:
Some of [Jose Mauel] de la Torre's decisions were mystifying. Though Aldo de Nigris has been frustratingly inconsistent in front of goal, he has consistently created chances up front. Against Jamaica, he finished well to help El Tri win the match. Strikers thrive on hot streaks, yet De Nigris was not given the chance to contribute versus Panama until less than 10 minutes were left in the match. Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez was working most of the game as a lone striker. Without another viable scoring threat to draw attention from him, he had little breathing room in which to operate.
The brightest spot for Mexico was in the one position that couldn't help them win the game. Jesus Corona, however, made sure that El Tri didn't lose, guarding the goal majestically to deny Panama time and again. He did especially well against one low shot by Blas Perez. Corona almost single-handedly gained the draw point with his efforts.
Except for Corona, however, who has played well for both club and country, it seems as if Mexico's players perform better for their clubs than they do with El Tri.
More than anything, a coach's job is to bring out the best in players. Eight games have been played in 2013, and few El Tri fans would say they have seen any of the field players at their best. Far from it, in fact.
Mexico Player to Watch: Giovani Dos Santos
Everyone knows Javier Hernandez is the man for Mexico, but finding a potent player to either pair with him atop the formation or drop behind just below him atop the midfield has been a puzzle at times for El Tri.
But Dos Santos certainly possesses the talent to add a spark to Mexico's attack, and his pairing with Hernandez atop Mexico's attack seems to offer El Tri the most potent threat to opposing defenses.
He's also fresh off an excellent club season for Mallorca, scoring six goals and adding seven assists in league play this year. And he certainly contributes for Mexico when he's in the lineup, with seven goals in his last 16 appearances for El Tri.
Hernandez is undoubtedly Mexico's best player, but a productive and fit Dos Santos may be the most important player for Mexico in its bid to reach the World Cup. When he shines, so do El Tri.
Costa Rica Player to Watch: Joel Campbell
The Real Betis man (on loan from Arsenal) has been very solid for Costa Rica in World Cup qualifying, scoring four goals for the team in his last 13 appearances since 2012.
While he struggled at Real Betis to start the year (two goals and three assists in 33 total appearances), he did begin to show improvement throughout the year. Still, he's generally been much more dangerous for country than club.
Campbell is a dangerous winger, as he combines solid pace and a desire to cut in on his left foot and take a shot with a penchant to track back defensively. Look for Costa Rica to regularly build the attack through Campbell.
Mexico can't afford to lose or draw this game at home. Already level with the United States and Costa Rica (and just a point up on Panama) with a game in hand, anything less than three points here will make this a very nervy side heading into the Confederations Cup.
Costa Rica won't roll over, but I can't see Mexico losing this game. El Tri earn a vital win, 1-0.
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