Mexico, Costa Rica put on a show in entertaining 1-1 World Cup qualifier
Three thoughts after Costa Rica drew 1-1 against Mexico on Tuesday and rescued a point that secured it a top-four finish in CONCACAF's World Cup qualifying hexagonal.
1. Mexico, Costa Rica share points in end-to-end battle
Juan Carlos Osorio and his coaching staff were aware that after Mexico's national team secured a place in next year's World Cup, a new stage was going to begin. In this new stage, it would be vital to use each game as best as possible to prepare adequately for the main event in 2018.
After El Tri obtained a ticket to Russia, there was reason to believe that perhaps the team would not bring its highest intensity to Costa Rica, but it wasn't the case because games at venues like Estadio Nacional are essential for a national team like Mexico, which tends to play friendlies in the U.S. where it's still usually the home side. Playing in environments where El Tri has very little support are vital for the growth of the team's spirit and on Tuesday night, the squad stepped up to the occasion.
Although Osorio made seven changes to the starting XI that defeated Panama 1-0 last Friday, the new faces in the starting XI didn't disappoint. The inclusion of Edson Alvarez as right-back provided solidity in the back four and was one of the main reasons why Mexico finished the first half with 35 duels won versus Costa Rica's 27. As the team's sole defensive midfielder, Diego Reyes had some shaky moments but was able to get three tackles and one interception during a very evenly matched first half, which included back-and-forth football from both sides.
In the second half, Osorio's side continued to create important chances -- it finished the night with six shots on target, the same number as Los Ticos -- but the failure to convert caused some stress. Because Mexico couldn't extend its 1-0 lead, a second-half surge almost led El Tri to lose the game 2-1. However, the game was such a tight duel that the overall performance was a positive one.
Osorio's Mexico came to Costa Rica to compete and put on a show against a team that was looking to secure its place in the World Cup. Costa Rica hasn't lost a game at Estadio Nacional since Sept. 7, 2012, when El Tri got a 1-0 win during the early stages of the 2014 World Cup qualifiers. Mexico came close to getting another 1-0 win but fell short at the end after Marco Urena's stunning late volley gave Los Ticos their share of the spoils.
2. Dos Santos brothers respond to the opportunity
There have been few chances where both Giovani dos Santos and Jonathan dos Santos have appeared in the same Mexico XI for a vital clash. Five of El Tri's six losses against Costa Rica have taken place in San Jose so before the match got underway, the possibilities of not gaining a point from the visit were high, especially when taking into account that Costa Rica was coming off a historic win over the U.S. last week.
Tuesday's game was a golden opportunity for the dos Santos brothers to prove that their contributions are still vital for the overall well being of iEl Tri. Immediately, Giovani showed pace in the final third as the game picked up intensity, while Jonathan kept showing the same bright glimpses he showed throughout last summer's Confederations Cup.
In his 100th appearance with El Tri, Giovani directly participated in Mexico's only goal of the night. His quick decision to ping the ball off his chest after Raul Jimenez's precise pass into the area almost provoked a phenomenal goal but after a series of bounces between Keylor Navas and Cristian Gamboa, it was Gamboa who ended up pushing the ball into the goal.
When the ball crossed the goal line, everyone went to celebrate the goal with Giovani. He flashed a smile that hadn't been seen in a high-profile Mexico game for quite some time. After their performance in Costa Rica, Jonathan and Giovani must return to Los Angeles and try close out the season as best as possible with the Galaxy. What's most positive of all, though, is that they showed the desire to keep playing at their highest level Tuesday night, which will ultimately allow them to play in a World Cup together for the first time in their lives.
3. Navas keeps Costa Rica in the game
In nine matches against El Tri, Keylor Navas has been able to celebrate only one victory, but his performance in Tuesday's 1-1 draw was influential. His six saves prevented Mexico from extending its 1-0 lead early in the second half before then denying Jesus Manuel "Tecatito" Corona from a sharp scoring opportunity.
Navas' saves early on in the second half allowed Costa Rica to create the most dangerous scoring chances toward the end of the match, and a post prevented the team to end the night with a 2-1 comeback win.
Both Guillermo Ochoa and Navas put on a show and were the main reason why the final result ended 1-1. After nine matches, Navas' record against Mexico reads one win, two draws and six losses.
Nayib Moran covers Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @nayibmoran.