Mexico faces Costa Rica in a tricky quarterfinal match-up at the Gold Cup.
The “easy” part of the Gold Cup is over and from here on out Mexico faces a “win-or-go-home” challenge and the first obstacle to an eighth Gold Cup trophy is Costa Rica.
El Tri won all three of its group stage matches, recording victories over Cuba, Canada and Martinique. El Tri posted a 13 to 3 goals differential, maintaining the position of tournament favorite (along with Team USA).
Mexico dominated the first two group stage matches, in a style that spoke loudly of the tactics of new coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino. First was an easy 7-0 romp over Cuba that was not terribly impressive because Cuba did not pose much of a challenge. El Tri’s convincing 3-1 over Canada in the second match did a lot to win over most critics, however.
Beating was a high boost to the team’s confidence and reassured fans that El Tri was still a potent team despite the absence of so many front-line players due to injury and personal decisions. Canada was clearly the toughest team El Tri would face in Group A, and winger Uriel Antuna, midfielder Andres Guardado and left back Jesus Gallardo were huge contributors.
The third game against Martinique might have woken up Martino’s team, because despite a 3-2 win, Mexico was not in fine form. Some of the players may have been overconfident, especially because El Tri had virtually clinched a position in the knock-out stage already. Even so, you must give credit to Martinique for the intensity and game-ling pressure they exerted, even though not all of their players are on professional teams.
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Mexico’s rival in the quarterfinals, Costa Rica, was inconsistent in its group stage. Their performances have been a bit shaky. The Ticos earned two wins (beating Nicaragua and Bermuda) but a loss to Haiti in the final game cost them the top spot in the group, sending them into a match-up with El Tri.
Although Costa Rica is struggling to find its identity under new manager Gustavo Matosas as many of the players that made the great run into the quarterfinals of the 2014 World Cup are no longer with the team. That includes Real Madrid goalkeeper Keylor Navas, who chose to rest this summer. Los Ticos will need top-notch performances from forwards Joel Campbell (who plays with León) and Mayron George to upset favored Mexico.
The game will take place in Houston’s sold-out NRG Stadium. This will be the eighth meeting between to two teams and Costa Rica has never defeated Mexico (5-2-0). Mexico is a perfect 7-0-0 under “Tata” Martino and surely they will win on Saturday night, but it will not be easy.