Mexico takes win in Costa Rica
After some 40 years, the Mexico national team won their first World Cup qualifying match in San Jose on Wednesday. In addition, the Mexicans hit for two goals in winning -- something they hadn't done since 1960 on Costa Rican soil -- in claiming a 2-1 victory to open the final round of CONCACAF qualifying for the 2006 World Cup.
Mexican coach Ricardo Antonio Lavolpe's charges gave a lesson in soccer to the Costa Rica and proof of that were the two early goals claimed by Jaime Lozano. The first of those came in the ninth minute in the execution of a freekick hit with extraordinary precision by the Pumas wingback. A minute later the skillful left-sided player appeared with a magnificent header to beat goalkeeper Alvaro Mesen.
From that moment and taking advantage of the Costa Rican dejection, the tricolores dominated with ease over the final 35 minutes of the opening half. The hard work of the attacking triangle composed of Francisco "Kikin" Fonseca, Cuauhtemoc Blanco and Jared Borguetti navigated them through the tico defenders who didn't have the way to stop the Mexico forwards.
In addition, when the home side looked to open up the match, it was easily handled by the Mexican midfield, where Pavel Pardo stood out. If the nearly insurmountable wall was beaten, the final line stepped up, commanded by FC Barcelona man Rafael Marquez and seconded by young Hugo Sanchez Guerrero, who interchanged their coverage, blanketing the tico individuality, and on very few occasions allowed them near the goal of Oscar Perez. In short, the visitors were a team.
The only option that appeared on the horizon was where Costa Rica scored a goal. A lost ball, opened through an error as 'keeper Oscar Perez came out of the goalmouth, was how the only conquest came about for Jorge Luis Pinto's team. A corner kick in the 38th minute reached forward Paulo Cesar Wanchope who deflected the ball home from the heart of the six-yard box to bring the ticos closer. The moment of emotion for the more than 20,000 fans who filled Estadio Ricardo Saprissa took the teams into the locker room 2-1.
After the break, the young Carlos Hernandez, on for Jafet Soto, looked to give the Costa Rican more attacking power. The Mexicans knew they were going to be pressured and changed their scheme, sitting back and waiting for the ticos, which made the second half a more competitive match yet fully in control of the tricolores. The minutes advanced in a similar manner as the momentum and physical advantage swung to the home side and they couldn't come up with the equalizer.
For Costa Rica the loss as a home team in their opening qualifying match isn't new. In the semifinal round they succumbed to Honduras in the Estadio Alejandro Morera Soto in Alajuela by 5-2. For Mexico the result announced that Lavolpe and his boys have all to play for in the final hexagonal. In the second matches, they will face the USA in another clasico of the region. The Costa Rican remain at home, playing host to Guatemala, who played to a scoreless draw in Panama.
Michael Umaña, helping his team from the bench
The anticipated new acquisition of the Los Angeles Galaxy, Costa Rican defender Michael Umaña, watched his teammates from the substitutes bench. Pinto didn't use the young defender, since the result and the situation of the game dictated that he use more attacking elements and not players who mainly defended.
For Umaña, not all was lost. "This is how it starts, and nine games are left and what we need is to win against Panama at home," he said.
Umaña, who is very confident he can do well in MLS with the Galaxy, said he considered Mexico was superior from start to finish.
"I'm only hoping to make things right with my new team and to return the confidence of coach Steve Sampson," Umaña said.
Eduardo Solano is a Costa Rican journalist with a number of years of experience.