Costa Rica coach Jorge Luis Pinto has gone on an extraordinary outburst, leaving no-one in any doubt of his feelings about having the chance to end Mexico’s hopes of making the World Cup. Costa Rica has already secured qualification for Brazil next year, while Mexico needs at least a draw to secure a place in a playoff with New Zealand and a win to give itself a chance of an automatic spot.
After a dramatic 2-1 victory over qualification rivals Panama on Friday, any hopes Mexico may have had about facing an unmotivated Costa Rica side in San Jose appear to be forlorn. The Ticos lost 1-0 to Honduras on Friday and Pinto is prepared to meet a similar challenge head on at the Estadio Nacional.
“We will be facing a sick and shattered team," he said, according to ESPN. “However, it is going to be a tough game like the one against Honduras. Honduras had its qualification on the line, the same as Mexico, and therefore it will be a tough game. We would love to score a lot of goals against them, but they won't be an easy rival; they will be tough, and that is the team we will be facing.”
Pinto was only just getting going. Following on from comments from forward Joel Campbell suggesting Mexican arrogance, the Costa Rica coach was not holding back in expounding his belief that Mexico’s contempt for its Central American rivals has played a part in its struggles to qualify.
“This is why it is where it is and can find itself sitting at home for the World Cup finals, and it would deserve it, too,” he said. Pinto then turned his attention to Mexican journalists who had questioned Costa Rica’s commitment against Honduras, a team which Mexico could still leapfrog for the final automatic qualification berth.
“Anyone who thinks this way is completely mistaken,” he said. “I have seen serious reporters in Mexico and they never talk about this silliness. I’m sure there are two or three reporters in Mexico who are clowns dressed up as journalists."
“They must learn to respect other countries, and the Costa Rican players. They tried to do what they should be doing, despite failing, and they say that this is not the case. This is Mexico disrespecting Costa Rica, and therefore they are paying the price, because they [the Mexicans] disrespect everyone: Honduras, Panama, El Salvador.”
Mexico can look back on a favorable recent record in Costa Rica, having not lost there in 21 years. There should be more confidence in the side too after Victor Manuel Vucetich engineered a vital win over Panama in a most high-pressure debut as coach. A victory coupled with a Honduras defeat in Jamaica could see Mexico take third spot, while it could even secure a playoff spot with a defeat if Panama fails to beat the United States at home. But the hero of that win over Panama at the Azteca, Raul Jimenez, is keen to leave nothing to chance.
“I can’t imagine a bigger game than this one against Costa Rica, he said, according to FIFA.com.” We have to go there, and we have to win. We can’t control all of the factors in the other games, but we must do what we can, and that is come away from San Jose with all three points.”
Prediction: Costa Rica appears to have plenty of motivation and should make it difficult for Mexico in the early going. It will be crucial for El Tri to get through that opening period unscathed. Do that and it should secure at least the draw it needs to gain a playoff spot that Vucetich would surely gladly accept before kickoff. There were plenty of positive signs in Vucetich’s debut as coach against Panama of Mexico playing with more positivity and conviction. That is likely to be enough to ensure it survives the unthinkable.
Costa Rica 1-1 Mexico
Where to watch: The World Cup qualifier will kick off at 9.30 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by Telemundo, with a live stream available at Telemundo.com.