Mexico vs. Costa Rica: Key Players Who Will Decide CONCACAF World Cup Qualifier

Christopher Impiglia@@impigliatoFeatured ColumnistJune 11, 2013

HOUSTON - MAY 31:  Javier Hernandez #14 of Mexico scores in the first half against Nigeria at Reliant Stadium on May 31, 2013 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
Bob Levey/Getty Images

Costa Rica and Mexico will both be looking to take the top spot in the quest for World Cup qualification when they meet tonight at 8:00 EDT. It will undoubtedly be a close matchup because Mexico hasn’t lost a match since the 2011 Copa America, and Costa Rica tops the group following a late win over Honduras on Friday.

Who comes away with the points will be decided by several key players.

Costa Rica

Alvaro Saborio

As the Salt Lake Tribune reports, Saborio is the highest-paid player at Real Salt Lake. But he’s consistently demonstrated he’s worth the money.

The forward has been in blistering form for both club and country of late. At Real Salt Lake since 2010, he has racked up 60 appearances and 31 goals.

He’s been a stalwart for Costa Rica as well. Since 2002, he’s contributed 30 goals in 72 matches. During this qualification campaign alone, he’s scored seven goals in ten games.

As the focal point of Costa Rica’s 4-5-1 formation going forward, his constant threat will mean Mexico’s Moreno and Maza will have to be on their toes throughout the match if they look to halt Saborio's impressive form.

Joel Campbell

Saborio’s threat up front would not be the same without Campbell’s support. Capable of operating as both a striker and winger, the young 20-year-old looks to be a bright prospect for the future of Costa Rica.

He’s already made 23 appearances for his country, scoring seven goals since 2011. This includes the two goals he already scored during this qualifying campaign.

He’s coming into this qualifying season after a breakout performance in La Liga. On loan at Real Betis from Arsenal, he might very well have proved he’s ready to wear a Gunners' shirt next season.

With 32 appearances and two goals for Betis, it will be interesting to see if Salcido and the rest of Mexico’s back line can cope with Campbell’s pace and crossing abilities, knowing Saborio is lurking in the box. 


Carlos Salcido

A stalwart for Mexico since 2004, Salcido still has loads to offer. Despite being 33 years old, his pace and tenacity has not waned.

Even if Salcido has been largely utilized in a less familiar defensive-midfield role by manager Jose Manuel de la Torre in the recent friendly 2-2 draw against Nigeria, Salcido demonstrated he warrants a return to the left-back position, as Tom Marshall of notes.

“(I feel) very happy,” Salcido said after the game against Nigeria in quotes gathered by “It’s a position that I know very well, but you have to do your little bit wherever you can be useful.”

Should he find himself where he’s most comfortable, he’ll cause Costa Rica all sorts of problems. The father of Dani Alves in terms of style, his threat going forward and his strength supporting the backline will be essential in exploiting Costa Rica’s defense and smothering Campbell and Saborio.

Plus, he’s demonstrated on numerous occasions that he’s not only capable of putting in that inch-perfect cross—which won’t be spurned by the likes of teammate Javier Hernandez—but he can score as well, already boasting two goals in nine appearances during these qualifiers.

Javier Hernandez

The most underutilized member of Manchester United will be without a doubt the biggest threat to Costa Rica.

His goal-scoring abilities are unquestionable. Although largely coming off the bench at United, he’s still managed 33 goals in 77 appearances, many of them dramatic winners in key fixtures. For Mexico, he’s already scored 32 goals in 47 appearances, including the five goals in 11 matches during these qualifiers.

With his finishing skills and the pace and dribbling of Giovanni dos Santos supporting him, Costa Rica will be hoping the duo will have an off-day like they did against Jamaica last week. 

On the other hand, Hernandez will be looking to set matters straight for his team, with Mexico drawing seven times in eight matches.

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