Costa Rica vs. Mexico: Players Who Must Step Up for El Tri in Final Qualifier
It all comes down to this.
While Mexico probably assured themselves at least a fourth-place finish with their 2-1 win over Panama on Friday, it's possible that they could be bumped back down to fifth if they lose at Costa Rica and Panama beats the United States and finishes with a better goal differential.
It's a long shot, but it's not a risk El Tri can afford to take. Needing at least a draw to guarantee a playoff with New Zealand as the fifth-place team is eliminated, several players must step up with the hopes of a nation on the line.
Let's take a closer look at those players.
Javier Hernandez, Forward
You have to wonder where El Chicharito's head is at after missing a penalty in Mexico's 2-1 win over Panama on Friday. He hasn't scored a goal in his last nine World Cup qualifiers and has made just five appearances (and two starts) for Manchester United this season.
Mexico looks like a pretty safe bet to qualify for the World Cup at this point—a playoff against New Zealand isn't scaring anyone—but if the team is going to make any noise in Brazil, El Tri needs to get its best player going.
Part of that will come on the club level, but ending his scoring drought in World Cup qualifiers would also be a positive sign for Hernandez. If he can pick up his game, Mexico could be in danger of losing this contest to Costa Rica as well.
Rafael Marquez, Defender, and Memo Ochoa, Keeper
The return of former captain and rugged defender Rafael Marquez has brought some added toughness. Along with Memo Ochoa, also recently added to the squad after an absence, Marquez will be needed to keep the defense sturdy against a Costa Rican attack that has registered 11 goals in the hexagonal stage, second only to the United States.
Victor Manuel Vucetich brought the pair back for a reason. It needs to prove the manager right against Costa Rica.
Giovani Dos Santos, Midfielder
While Mexico finally got its attack back on track against Panama, it did take an 85th-minute goal from Raul Jimenez to get the win. For the team to keep that momentum going, creative spark Giovani Dos Santos will have to be at his best against Costa Rica.
Dos Santos is at his best playing in the hole behind Hernandez, both creating for his teammates moving forward in the attack and taking on defenders when given space. He's capable of scoring if given the opportunity, and on a team that can often lack a sense of creativity when going forward, Dos Santos needs to be on his game against a tough Costa Rican squad.
He's in fine form right now, having scored four goals and adding two assists in eight appearances for Villarreal this season. Don't be surprised if he plays a major role in this contest.
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