A 3-5-10 record in World Cup elimination stages, eight years without scoring, a -17 goal differential and 105,000 people rooting against them are only some of the negative numbers Costa Rica will face tonight against Mexico.
And yet, hope for a second “Aztecazo” has never been higher. In the last 12 years, Ticos have never been so optimistic about beating Mexico at home in the Estadio Azteca.
Costa Rica and Mexico face off tonight in the fifth round of the final elimination stage for Brazil 2014 World Cup. In a three-way tie with the United States for the top spot, both teams aim to finish the first round of round robin games as leaders.
Expectations in Mexico are high, as local and foreign journalists and experts debate over the visiting team’s chances of a surprise result.
“Costa Rica has a team that can come to play fearlessly against Mexico, and have a good game,” said David Faitelson, a Mexican ESPN sports reporter who usually is overconfident of Mexican sports superiority over Central American teams. “Why not repeat 2001 and leave Estadio Azteca with more than a tie?”
Many of Faitelson's colleagues agree that Mexico is obligated to earn all 3 points at home, as the team has only had one win in 2013 (1-0 vs. Jamaica on June 4), following a 6-tie streak and another tie last Friday at Panama.
As for Costa Rica, team morale is high following an important win at home against Honduras last Friday, and only one loss in this stage of eliminations against the U.S. in a controversial, snowy game in Denver last March.
In the end, statistics and speculation don’t matter when both teams hit the field. But they'll have to suffice until the 90-minute whistle is blown and history is written once again.
Costa Rica 2-1-1, 7 points
United States 2-1-1, 7 points
Mexico 1-0-4, 7 points
Panama 1-0-3, 6 points
Honduras 1-2-1, 4 points
Jamaica 0-3-2, 2 points
United States vs. Panama
Jamaica at Honduras