Mexico manager Juan Carlos Osorio has finally done it.
Seven matches into the Hexagonal — CONCACAF’s final round of World Cup qualifying — Osorio has already clinched a spot for Russia 2018.
In light of the incessant amount of criticism and scrutiny that the manager continues to amass from media and fans, Osorio has proved many of his doubters wrong with a brilliant run in the Hex. In the previous four qualifying runs for Mexico, no other managers were able to secure a spot in the World Cup as quickly as Osorio.
Yet, despite this, scrutiny will continue to surround the polarizing Colombian who occasionally loves to rotate and experiment with his roster. Keeping in mind that El Tri already has a place secured set for the World Cup, it wouldn’t be a shock to see some changes from Osorio in the upcoming qualifying match against Costa Rica this Tuesday.
Most importantly, if Osorio does provide opportunities for some backup players, the clash against Costa Rica will provide much-needed starts for bench options who are still vying for key roles. With a little over nine months to go until Russia 2018, Osorio will soon need to weed out those who won’t make the cut for next summer.
As for Costa Rica, El Tri should be cautious with the Central American side that will be hungry for a win. If Costa Rica steals three points on Tuesday, Los Ticos will officially join Mexico in the next World Cup.
Key to success for El Tri — Capitalize on attacking efforts
During Mexico’s most recent qualifier against Panama, El Tri was less-than-exciting with its chances in the final third. Although Mexico had more possession in the 1-0 win over Panama, the CONCACAF giants struggled with finding many shots on target. Granted, El Tri eventually won the match, but the team still failed to look very efficient.
Against a talented goalkeeper like Keylor Navas, Mexico must capitalize on its opportunities. As seen last week in the 2-0 away victory over the United States, the Real Madrid player has the capabilities of becoming a game-changer.
Mexico player to watch — Jonathan dos Santos
After remaining on the bench against Panama, all signs point to a start for Dos Santos against Costa Rica.
During the recent Confederations Cup, the 27-year-old midfielder was El Tri’s best player of the tournament. While covering an impressive amount of ground, Dos Santos proved to be a necessary source of energy and high pressure for Mexico. Since then, the former Villarreal player stunned El Tri fans when he agreed to join his older brother and sign with the LA Galaxy.
Several weeks after the trade, Dos Santos should be motivated to showcase his drive and aggression for Mexico. In spite of his criticized role in MLS, the midfielder must utilize Tuesday’s match as a chance to prove that he is still one of El Tri’s most influential players.
Predicted lineup for Mexico
Hector Herrera, Jesus Dueñas and Nestor Araujo are all unavailable for Mexico. Following injury concerns, Hector Moreno appears set to return to the starting XI.
I’m thinking that we will see plenty of expected changes, but I’m still wondering how the defense will lineup. Osorio went with a four-man backline against Costa Rica last time, but will he give another start to a more attack-minded Jesus Gallardo? Will Moreno play in that left-back position and then give another chance for Hugo Ayala in the middle?
It’s always tough to predict with Osorio, but I think we will see something like this.
Predicted score — Costa Rica 1-1 Mexico
I’m expecting a good match with brilliant performances from both goalkeepers. El Tri will remain undefeated and Los Ticos will move one step closer to clinching a spot for Russia 2018.