Mexico took their goalless streak at the Azteca to over 270 minutes and three matches as they recorded a third-straight 0-0 result at home in the Hexagonal with Costa Rica the latest side to frustrate El Tri. The outcome leaves Mexico with just one win and eight points from their six matches in the final round of Concacaf World Cup qualifying. The side that was expected to cruise to Brazil next year now head off to the Confederations Cup with their hopes of making it back to the country in 12 months time still in considerable doubt and with the future of manager Juan Manuel “Chepo” de la Torre under even greater uncertainty.
Before the match De la Torre has said that the performance was not important, only the result, yet he got neither on Tuesday. Mexico again toiled without cohesion or creativity on their own turf and, not for the first time, it was the opposition that can claim to have had the better chances. Had Joel Campbell and Kenny Cunningham been more clinical in front of goal, their could well have been a repeat of Mexico’s only ever home World-Cup qualifying defeat against the same opposition back in 2001.
De la Torre did make changes to try and get some attacking rhythm into his team with Hector Herrera coming into the midfield and Giovani dos Santos surprisingly left out in deference to Aldo de Nigris. It was the striker that found himself on the end of what little Mexico did create in the opening period. But the Guadalajara man failed to capitalize as some instant control and a snap shot was comfortably saved by Keylor Navas before De Nigris failed to control a flicked-on cross when right in front of goal.
Much to the home fans’ dismay it was at the other end when the best openings were being created. Indeed, Costa Rica could and perhaps should have been in front inside five minutes. Campbell broke in behind a laboring Francisco Rodriguez down the left of the penalty area but his shot across goal clipped off the outside of the far post.
As Mexico continued to struggle and the fans became increasingly restless, Costa Rica only grew in confidence. And Campbell had another chance to break the deadlock later in the opening period as he arrived onto an astute knockback from Cristian Bolanos but his left-footed shot was parried away by Jesus Corona. When Bryan Ruiz crashed a long-range effort just over the bar, Costa Rica’s belief that they could repeat their famous win of 12 years ago was clear.
De la Torre had a big job on at the break and his words appeared to have some effect as El Tri came out with increased tempo. And with Costa Rica continuing to express themselves it was a frenetic end-to-end beginning to the second half. Campbell was again looking lively but the player who spent last season on loan to Real Betis from Arsenal was unable to make the most of an opening on the edge of the box under pressure from Rodriguez.
The visitors positivity gave Mexico greater space going forward but they were unable to capitalize with a rasping effort from Carlos Salcido that was turned past his near post by Navas being the closest they came in this early exciting exchanges. Given Mexico’s early enterprise after the break, Jorge Luis Pinto’s side understandably became more pragmatic as the half wore on. His opposite number, meanwhile, made two like-for-like changes with Raul Jiminez and Javier Aquino coming on to little effect.
A set piece almost caused Mexico and the previously reliable Corona plenty of embarrassment, but the goalkeeper was relieved to see the ball go wide of the far post after he misjudged the flight of a free-kick.
With the match entering the final 16 minutes, the usually conservative De la Torre went for broke and brought on Dos Santos for Herrera in a desperate attempt to secure a vital three points. Instead, it was a Costa Rica substitute that so nearly proved decisive. Kenny Cunningham showed his thrilling pace as he burst past Rodriguez into the penalty area down the left but he then critically delayed producing a shot, which allowed the defender to get back and make a crucial challenge.
And after a long delay as Ruiz was the victim of several objects thrown in his direction at a corner kick, Mexico similarly failed to take advantage of an opening of their own. Hernandez’s usually assured touch in front of goal deserted him as he failed to control a pass from Jimenez and Cristian Gamboa made a recovery tackle.
Despite seven minutes of injury time, Mexico, in truth, didn’t look like producing a winning goal as the evening concluded with the Azteca fans making their feelings clear with chants of “Chepo out."