Costa Rica’s surprise defeat to Haiti on Monday slotted the men’s national soccer team into a quarterfinal matchup with Mexico.
La Sele will meet El Tri on Saturday at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas.
Here’s how the 2019 Gold Cup knockout-stage bracket is shaping up so far:
Mexico were clear favorites heading into the regional tournament, and Saturday’s match is a chance for Costa Rica to prove it remains one of CONCACAF’s best teams. El Tri finished atop Group A with victories over Cuba (7-0), Canada (3-1) and Martinique (3-2).
As ESPN explains, Mexico plays an aggressive, attacking style under manager Gerardo “Tata” Martino:
The immediate goal for Martino is to drill his players in the 4-3-3 formation, to pin teams back into their own half, have the full-backs push forward and, importantly, put the brakes on other teams hitting Mexico on the transition.
The three victories, 13 goals scored and domination of most of the games El Tri has involved in shows that the players have picked up Martino’s fundamental principles with relative ease.
Costa Rica, meanwhile, is still searching for its own identity under manager Gustavo Matosas.
While La Sele blasted Nicaragua, 4-0, to open Gold Cup play, the team has otherwise performed poorly this year. That was evidenced Monday, when Costa Rica was outclassed as its lead slipped away in the second half.
A loss against Mexico would bring Costa Rica’s record under Matosas to 3-0-5 and mark another disappointing tournament performance for La Sele after its lackluster showing at the 2018 World Cup.
Monday’s result against Haiti is also an ominous sign for Costa Rica as CONCACAF Nations League play approaches. La Sele will play home-and-away matches against regional opponents Haiti and Curaçao starting Sept. 7, with the top team advancing to the semifinals.
But first, Mexico awaits, representing an opportunity for Costa Rica to reestablish itself among CONCACAF’s best.