Mexico survive scare to knock out Costa Rica (1:3)
The much-heralded Mexicans, who will now face either the United States or the Netherlands the semi-finals in Chiclayo on Thursday, seemed destined to be heading out until two minutes from the end of normal time when they clawed their way back into the game and eased past the Costa Ricans as they tired in the decisive phase of the game.
A relieved Mexico coach Jesus Ramirez said: "We've had other difficult matches before, so even when we losing with just a couple of minutes to go, I still thought we would go through because I had faith in my team and they didn't give up. I think we really deserved to win because my boys really went for it."
As expected, Mexico made six changes from the weakened team which started their last group game against Turkey, with top strikers Giovani Dos Santos and Carlos Vela coming back into the fold. By contrast, Costa Rica brought in only one new face to the side which beat tournament hosts Peru 2:0 as Ariel Recinos replaced Guillermo Guardia.
Vela brought a dull opening to life in the 19th minute after a well-worked short corner routine with Cesar Villaluz which saw the Guadalajara forward bring a good save from Costa Rica stopper Alfonso Quesada diving near his left hand post. Quesada then kept out a curling free-kick by Villaluz and he also stooped low to smother a neat flick-on by Dos Santos.
Vela was once more denied by the lively Quesada from a more central position and it seemed clear that the Costa Rican would be an instrumental figure if they were to upset the odds and sneak a victory over the Mexicans.
Mexico certainly dominated the first half, but for all their possession they still could not find the breakthrough, though Costa Rica's Jean Solorzano had the most meaningful effort saved by Sergio Arias as a somewhat disappointing opening 45 minutes drew to a close.
Costa Rica made the first enterprising break after the restart when Solorzano threatened once again with a promising surge forward, though his shot was too high to draw another save out of Arias.
Quesada keeps Mexico at bay
Vela blasted a good shot in with his left foot, but Quesada was equal to it and then Dos Santos blew a golden opportunity for Mexico by blasting the ball high over the bar when clean through. The fans in Piura were quick to whistle their disapproval of that effort and they were let down again when they screamed for a 'goal' that merely turned out to be Omar Esparza hitting the side-netting.
There was more than a touch of good fortune about events when Costa Rica broke the deadlock after 67 minutes. In fact, it was truly bizarre. Esteban Rodrigues clipped in a hopeful corner, but Mexico substitute Edgar Andrade seemed to have it easily covered until his attempted clearance skewed horribly off his left boot. Defender Efrain Valdez could not keep the sliced, misdirected 'shot' out with his head despite a desperate attempt to clear it off the line and he was credited with the strangest of own goals (1:0, 67').
To their credit, Costa Rica withstood intense pressure well and retained enough menace on the counter-attack to leave Mexico under no illusions that they had a real fight on the hands to stay in a tournament they had previously vowed to win.
Costa Rica finally capitulated with just two minutes remaining and this time it was Mexico who had the rub of the green when it came to being fortunate as Valdez saw his shot from the edge of the box take a hefty deflection in a crowded penalty area and find its' way into the corner of the net to force extra time (1:1, 88').
Almost as soon as that got underway, Mexico classily fired their way into the lead, with Villaluz releasing supersub striker Guzman, who cracked an unstoppable, thunderbolt drive high past the helpless Quesada at his near post (1:2, 92').
Vela made matters safe for the Mexicans by heading well past the advancing Quesada to make it three just before the end of the first period of additional time (1:3, 105').
Costa Rica coach Geovanny Alfaro said after his side's defeat: "It was a great game, even though we lost it. We had a lot of belief in ourselves, so I was very hopeful of us winning the game near the end, but that's football and what happens, happens. I am proud of my players."