Mexico Survives on Penalties
The inaugural Concacaf Nations League was filled with drama. The U.S. and Mexico will play for the final on Sunday after the Americans scored an 89th minute game winner and Mexico defeated Costa Rica in a six round penalty shootout.
Despite Mexico's dominance, they struggled to connect in front of goal, especially in the second half. The game ended 0-0 and went straight to penalty kicks. The shootout got off to an exciting start as Mexico, shooting first, missed their first penalty wide left and Costa Rica missed their second shot wide right. Mexican goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa won the game for his squad, saving Costa Rica's sixth-round shot.
The intensity of this match was apparent from the opening whistle. Mexico started off strong with several well-worked attacks. Costa Rica was up for the challenge as a strong defense proved difficult to break down. The energy from the largely pro-Mexico crowd helped create an intense game atmosphere. The on-field energy continued through the end of the match, as the teams shared some shoves in the 89th minute after Costa Rica was awarded a free kick.
Later in stoppage time, the teams came together again after an incident off the ball. This confrontation was even bigger, as both goalies made a run to midfield to join their teams in the disagreements. The moment took a turn for the worse after fans were warned to stop using discriminatory chants towards the players, leading to a temporary pause in play.
Mexico showed throughout the match why they are considered to be the best team in the region. They are a high-energy team who will relentlessly press off the ball, often winning it in dangerous areas. In the midfield, they are incredibly talented at finding space in the opponent's formation, creating chances through dangerous balls in possession.
Costa Rica's main strategy in the game was to stay strong on defense. Their midfielders were diligent in helping back to minimize the amount of dangerous chances Mexico had. Despite that, Mexico still generated several great chances, requiring strong goalkeeping from Costa Rican Leonel Moreira. In the attack, Costa Rica relied on dangerous counter-attacks. Despite focusing mostly on counter-attacking, the attacks they did have were high in quality as a result of the meaningful possession they had going forward.
Costa Rica will face Honduras in the third place match on Sunday before the final between Mexico and the U.S.