Showing no ill effects from a shocking home loss to the United States in August, the Mexico men’s national football team eviscerated Costa Rica 2-0 in a World Cup qualifying match on Friday night.
From the opening pitch, it was obvious that the Mexicans came out motivated. After exchanging scoring chances early in the match, Mexico took over late in the first half and never looked back.
Dominating the ball for what seemed like an eternity, El Tri’s first goal came in the 43rd minute by defender Jose de Jesus Corona off of a corner kick. That put the momentum squarely with Mexico going into the half. Another corner kick score by Jesus Zavala six minutes after half clinched the victory.
The win is Mexico’s third straight in Group B of CONCACAF qualifying and clinches the country a place in the final round.
With Mexico looking more and more bound for the World Cup by the match, here’s a look at key player grades from last night’s match.
Jose de Jesus Corona, Mexico: A
Almost no matter the circumstances, anytime a keeper pitches a clean sheet, he should get the top grade available.
Corona’s great positional play early on Friday likely saved Mexico from allowing an early goal, as the Costa Rican attack looked strong early. Had Costa Rica been able to get on the board first, this could have been a totally different match.
The Mexican keeper isn’t the only reason his country won the match, but he’s probably the biggest one. Another great performance in a tournament full of them for Corona.
Carlos Salcido, Mexico: A
To say the Mexican defender’s goal was a little unorthodox is an understatement. Simply waiting in the wings and protecting against a strong clear from the Costa Ricans, Salcido was in the right place at the perfect time.
Nevertheless, the shot somehow avoided deflection by making it through a mess of bodies and went by K Navas for the game-winning goal.
For a 32-year-old defender with just 12 career goals under his belt, Salcido’s brilliant shot on Friday could not have come at a better time.
Jesus Zavala, Mexico: A
Zavala’s goal in the 51st minute was more of the standard affair, but it was the death knell for a Costa Rican comeback bid.
In just his second game of World Cup qualifying action, the 25-year-old midfielder made his presence known and should get more opportunities in the future.
At the very least, he’ll arrive for Tuesday’s rematch back home in Azteca with a hero’s welcome.
Andres Guardado, Mexico: A-
Though many will point to Salcido and Zavala as Mexico’s heroes for putting the ball in net, it was Guardado’s corner kicks that set up the attack.
The Valencia winger came into Friday’s contest after struggling in his La Liga contest on Sunday against Barcelona. His club squad failed all match to put anything of substance together on the attack, and Guardado seemed motivated to avoid that fate for his country.
Guardado only gets a little downgrade here because of how unconventional Mexico’s first score was. The second to Zavala, however, was a thing of beauty.
Costa Rican Defense: D
On Mexico’s two goals, the Costa Rican defenders failed miserably at clearing the ball out of harm’s way.
Had Costa Rica been more aggressive on the defense, it’s likely that the squad goes into half tied and this is a completely different contest.
As it stands, Costa Rica is still winless at home in 2014 World Cup qualifying. This time around, the onus is on the defense.