Sports Mole provides team news, predicted lineups and a full preview of Sunday’s Gold Cup fixture between Mexico and Costa Rica.
Mexico square off against Costa Rica in the CONCACAF Gold Cup quarter-finals having recorded three successive wins during the group stages.
Costa Rica could only claim second place in Group B after suffering a surprise defeat to Haiti earlier this week.
After being placed in a group with Canada, Cuba and Martinique, Mexico were aware that they had an opportunity to warm into a tournament which they are expected to prevail in at the start of July.
That was exactly how things transpired, with a 7-0 victory over Cuba setting the tone for a group-stage campaign which resulted in Mexico netting 13 times.
Gerardo Martino‘s side had to work harder than expected against Canada and Martinique, although they were never in any real danger of failing to get more victories on the board.
The real work for the seven-time champions starts now, with Costa Rica perhaps tougher opposition than they were expecting at this stage of the competition.
Nevertheless, Martino may feel that it is a blessing in disguise given the struggles in their last outing as Martinique threatened to earn a share of the spoils.
However, despite witnessing his side ship three goals in their last two matches, Martino will be delighted that as many as seven different players have scored at the other end of the pitch.
There is a reliance on Wolverhampton Wanderers man Raul Jimenez to contribute the most in the final third, but Uriel Antuna currently leads the way with four strikes.
The 21-year-old will hope that parent club Manchester City have been keeping a close eye on his performances, although the prospect still has work to do in order to establish himself for his national team before hoping to represent the Premier League champions in the future.
Recent form: WWW
Recent form (all competitions): WWWWWW
Costa Rica would have been pleased with beginning the Gold Cup with back-to-back wins over Nicaragua and Bermuda, results which left them top of their group ahead of a showdown with Haiti.
As many as 62 places separate the two nations in the world rankings, but it was the underdogs who prevailed by a 2-1 scoreline in Harrison earlier this week.
That has resulted in Haiti progressing onto a last-eight showdown with Canada, putting Costa Rica in the position of having to take on Mexico on Saturday night.
Los Ticos have not progressed through to the final of this competition in their last eight attempts, a period stretching all the way back to 2002, but they will now have to overcome the odds to maintain hope of a first triumph since 1989.
The main plus for Costa Rica is that they are making a habit of scoring early goals, with the deadlock having been broken by the half-hour mark in each of their group games.
Manager Gustavo Matosas will also point to the fact that two of the three goals which they have conceded have come from the penalty spot, suggesting that the backline are doing little wrong during open play.
Nevertheless, Matosas is going to have to rely on influential performances from the likes of Bryan Ruiz and Joel Campbell, formerly of Fulham and Arsenal respectively.
Neither player have added to the 42 international goals which they have between them so far, but Matosas is aware that the duo have previous for producing on the big stage.
Recent form: WWL
Recent form (all competitions): LWLWWL
Martino made a number of changes for the fixture with Martinique, although they failed to make a positive impact on the side.
That could lead to Martino reverting to the starting lineup which got the better of Canada in their second group game.
Andres Guardado netted twice off the bench during that fixture, but the midfielder is expected to begin this weekend’s encounter as a substitute.
As for Costa Rica, Matosas must decide whether to make any alterations to the team which succumbed to Haiti.
Oscar Duarte, Elias Aguilar and Mayron George are all pushing for starting roles after being introduced as replacements during that contest.
Mexico possible starting lineup:
Ochoa; Rodriguez, Araujo, Reyes, Gallardo; Dos Santos, Alvarez, Gutierrez; Antuna, Jimenez, Alvarado
Costa Rica possible starting lineup:
Moreira; Fuller, Calvo, Gonzalez, Matarrita; Borges, Cruz, Leal, Ruiz; Campbell, Saborio
Head To Head
This weekend’s meeting will represent the 55th encounter between the two nations, with Mexico registering 30 wins in comparison to just seven victories for Costa Rica.
Mexico are unbeaten in their last five contests, although two of those games have ended in draws.
Costa Rica’s last success in this fixture came in 2013 when they registered a 2-1 triumph during qualifying for the 2014 World Cup.
We say: Mexico 2-1 Costa Rica
Costa Rica will be eager to put on an improved performance after their setback against Haiti, but Mexico remain the tournament favourites for a reason. The goals flowed during the group stages, although we are predicting a competitive clash in Houston.