The World Cup Qualifying gets back under way on Friday with the first of two matches for each team left in qualifying. In Group B, Costa Rica and Mexico will play each other twice in the course of the next five days, beginning in San Jose, Costa Rica.
Mexico are in confident mood having lifted Olympic gold at the expense of a much-vaunted Brazilian side. The U-23 team made up their Olympic side and it can only be good for the future of Mexican football. Their senior squad has not enjoyed quite such a successful summer, losing at home to the U.S. in the Estadio Azteca.
Costa Rica has had mixed fortunes in their recent matches. They have only won one of their last three friendlies, slipping to defeats against Guatemala and Peru. They defeated Guatemala in the first match in the series. They started their qualifying campaign with a draw against El Salvador before they easily defeated Guyana 4-0 four days later.
Mexico had little difficulty beating El Salvador and Guyana in qualifying to put them proudly on top of Group B with six points. They earlier showed excellent form in friendlies with victories against Bosnia and Herzegovina and Brazil. In the history of meetings between these two sides, Mexico has won 18 of 28 matches and only lost five. The last time these teams met in a competitive game resulted in a 4-1 victory for Mexico during the 2011 Gold Cup at Soldier Field in Chicago. Whilst Costa Rica could not progress beyond the quarter-final stage, Mexico went on to lift the trophy.
Possibly the star of the Mexican side is Javier Hernandez of Manchester United, although his regular starting place at Old Trafford is under threat following the signing of Dutch international Robin van Persie from Arsenal. Other Premiership players involved are Fulham’s Bryan Ruiz and recent Everton signing Bryan Oviedo, both representing Costa Rica. Mexico’s Andres Guardado plays for Valencia and Dos Santos has just joined Mallorca from Tottenham having failed to secure a regular starting place. Dos Santos has been one of the star players for Mexico at the 2011 Gold Cup and the 2012 Olympics but misses the Costa Rica games through injury. That could leave the way clear for Guardado to boss the midfield for Mexico. Hernandez and De Nigris are again likely to start up front.
Costa Rica Manager Jorge Luis Pinto has selected his strongest players up front in Saborio (four goals in two group games) and Campbell. He will be anticipating that Mexico will attempt to lay siege to the Costa Rican goal early on so he may reserve Randall Brenes or Bryan Ruiz for the second period. Mexico will go into both matches as strong favourites, knowing that back-to-back victories will secure their place in the final round of qualifying.