Costa Rica Sports – Without really impressing, Mexico still managed an effective beginning to a campaign to defend its Olympic title from 2012, defeating Costa Rica 4-0 in the opening match of qualifying.
Considering they’ve already won an Olympic title, Mexico might be taking qualifying for the competition in Rio de Jainero, Brazil, a little bit for granted. There hasn’t been much media coverage about the squad in Mexico, and the attendance in Carson’s Stub Hub stadium, normally a stronghold for Mexican fans whenever any version of its team shows up, was meager.
Then again, it could be that the CONCACAF qualification for the Olympic Games is overshadowed at present by the CONCACAF Cup, the playoff match between the senior Mexico and U.S. teams taking place in nearby Pasadena on Oct. 10.
Even with a few flat moments, Mexico’s Olympic team did well with the chances they created. The opening goal came when Marco Bueno darted in front of a pass that seemed destined for Erick Torres, taking the defenders by surprise with a quick shot in the 19th minute.
Just before the half, Mexico got another goal when a corner kick, again aimed for Torres, just missed him and glanced off a Costa Rican defender to give the team a 2-0 halftime lead.
In the second half, Bueno added another goal in the 77th, latching on to a Hirving Lozano pass and unleashing another swift shot past goalkeeper Darryl Parker.
With a tired and dispirited Costa Rica squad hoping for the final whistle late in the game, Torres scored the final goal in the 88th minute, bouncing his shot into the goal past the outstretched arm of Parker.
Now that coach Raul Gutierrez and his squad have such a victory against one of their tougher CONCACAF rivals, the team will look to maintain that momentum in their next match against Haiti on Sunday. Costa Rica will face Honduras, who defeated Haiti in the match played earlier in the day.
The qualifying tournament usually previews the final squad that goes on to the Olympics if the qualifying campaign is successful. Mexico’s team showcases some of the best young talent in Liga MX, although Torres currently plays in Major League Soccer for the Houston Dynamo. Mexico in general lacked cohesion at certain points, but a big win like this one will likely boost the team’s confidence and lead to even better play.
The two top teams in the CONCACAF qualifying tournament are granted spots in Brazil, but the third-placed squad has to compete in a playoff game in order to secure a ticket to the 2016 Olympic competition.
BY ANDREA CANALES, ESPN
Andrea Canales covers both Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Follow her on Twitter @soccercanales