World Cup qualifiers are well under way and we’ve already seen our fair share of surprises. Countries from Latin America are continuing to perform at a high level, and Mexico is looking particularly strong with a win against Trinidad and Tobago coupled with a decisive 2-0 victory over Costa Rica.
Perhaps the most vital match of Mexico’s qualifying run was its win against the United States back in November. After a number of frustrating defeats to the USA, the team flipped the script and beat the US 2-1 on its own soil in Columbus, Ohio. The scoring was opened by Miguel Layun during the first half, but the scrappy United States squad tied the game up in the 49th minute with a goal from Bobby Wood. But it wasn’t enough. Mexico talisman and elder statesmen Rafa Marquez scored the winning goal in the 88th minute, putting the final nail in the coffin for the U.S. The 37-year-old center shook off his defender and headed home a well-placed corner kick from Layun to wrap up the win and continue Mexico’s strong showing in qualifying.
El Tri have yet to lose a match in World Cup qualifying and currently sit at the top of the tables for the CONCACAF hexagonal round. Meanwhile, the United States is struggling and sits in fourth place behind Mexico, Costa Rica, and Panama.
While the loss to Mexico might have been a bitter pill to swallow for the U.S., they could take solace in knowing that they narrowly lost to a very good team. However, things were a different story for the next game against Costa Rica. While Costa Rica is also a very talented team in their own right, the way in which they destroyed the United States has brought serious questions as to whether the Yanks will qualify for the World Cup at all.
One report pointed out that it was clear from the beginning that the U.S. was outmatched and outclassed and they were lucky to walk away with only a 4-0 loss. You could call it payback—Costa Rica’s previous loss was actually also 4-0 to the United States back in June 2016 during the Copa America Centenario. Since then, la Sele went undefeated in 10 matches before losing to Panama in the Copa Centroameri
cana and the aforementioned loss to Mexico.
It’s still early but people are already trying to get an eye for each team’s chances at the 2018 World Cup. Odds on World Cup qualifying are available at a number of sites featuring major online marketsfor those trying to get an idea of popular opinion, but it could still be anyone’s tournament with plenty of qualifying matches to go. Everyone has long assumed that the United States would be a shoe-in for qualification, but if the team can’t figure things out soon, it might be an entirely Latin American delegation coming out of CONCACAF.
If the team can somehow maintain its current run of form, Costa Rica could very well end up surprising a lot of people. After failing to exit their group stage during the Copa America Centenario, Costa Rica has looked strong following a friendly win against Russia in addition to convincing victories over the U.S. and Trinidad and Tobago. Los Ticos have a good mixture of young talent and veteran stars, with a particularly lethal strike partnership up front thanks to Joel Campbell and mainstay Bryan Ruiz.
The next round of qualifying matches is set to take place in June, when Mexico will once again face off against the United States, this time in Mexico City’s Estadio Azteca. Costa Rica will play Panama at home.
Panama is a pretty unpredictable team. They just played to a draw against the USA in March, so Costa Rica could have their work cut out for them. Either way, it’s sure to be exciting and there’s no telling who will be left standing when the smoke clears.