A Day of Drama for CONCACAF

Published Sunday, June 29, 2014 7:44 PM by Shane Barrow
A Day of Drama for CONCACAF

Sunday, what could have been a day of celebration which CONCACAF had never seen.  Instead it turned into a day of utter drama.  Both Mexico and Costa Rica battled though epic matches with both taking leads into the final minutes of their round of 16 matches.   In the end, the two teams suffered very different fates as their World Cups were decided.

Mexico opened the day with a fascinating matchup with the vaunted Dutch.  Finalists from 2010, Holland had already dispatched Spain and Chile in the group phase.  While playing great soccer in the opening group matches, could Mexico  bring the quality it would take to see off Sneijder, Van Persie, Robben and friends?

The short answer was Yes.  Mexico brought plenty of quality and after a scoreless opening half El Tri raced into the lead as Giovanni Dos Santos put a left footed strike into the corner of the net.  Mexico looked destined for a famous win.  Then they went über defensive.

Dos Santos went to the bench in favor of a defensive minded player and the message was clear.  Mexico were going to sit in Mourinho style for the rest of game.  The problem was there were still thirty minutes left to play. Far to soon to take the foot off the pedal.

The Netherlands flowed forward almost unabated.  Ochoa did all he could in goal, but it was never destined to be.  Finally in the 88th minute thunder struck.  Despite having three players stationed at the top of the box for a Dutch corner, Mexico allowed Wesley Sneijder to race in and crash home the tying goal.  Disastrous.

Then only a few minutes later in injury time Arjen Robben goaded El Tri captain Rafa Marquez into stepping in for a rash tackle despite having three defenders in position behind.  He stepped on the foot of Robben who went down like he was shot.  The referee bought in and awarded the penalty.  Game, set and match.

A harsh way to go out for sure.  Being ever so close to a dramatic win and then to be out of the tournament all together within a few minutes.  Six straight round of 16 appearances for Mexico and six consecutive losses. Not a good record at all.

The second match of the day featured two surprises in Greece facing Costa Rica.  The first half was one to forget as it limped scoreless to the break.  There was plenty of drama left though as Bryan Ruiz rolled home the shot to break the tie.

Could Cinderella have another day at the ball?  Costa Rica were in front and Greece is not exactly known as an offensive juggernaut.  Then disaster as Oscar Duarte was shown his second yellow forcing the Ticos to play the rest of the match with ten men.

Greece immediately went on the attack searching for the tying goal.  Costa Rica's star keeper was up to the task though as Navas made important interventions.  Finally Greece broke through with only minutes to spare.

Ever so close for Costa Rica.  Now they would have to hold up a man down for thirty minutes of extra time.  Somehow they survived the Greek onslaught and forced the match to penalties.

After seven perfectly taken penalties Navas stoned Gekas giving Umana the chance to win the match for Costa Rica and send them to their first ever World Cup quarterfinal.  Umana smashed home and Costa Rica move on. Bring on the Dutch!

For CONCACAF fans it was a wild and crazy day full of nearly every emotion.  Tough to see Mexico go out under such difficult circumstances but brilliant to see Costa Rica relish in the joy of a quarterfinal appearance.