[HEXAGONAL: Matchday 10]Mexico won only two games, scored only seven goals and finished with only 11 points -- all all-time lows for a team in the Hexagonal top four -- but El Tri is still alive. Thanks to Graham Zusi and Aron Johannsson.
Veteran Rafael Marquez said Mexico reached a new low with its 2-1 loss at Costa Rica, but it is still alive thanks to the USA's 3-2 win at Panama on stoppage-time goals by Zusi and Johannsson.
Almost an afterthought on a night of incredible drama across the Hexagonal: Honduras returned to the World Cup when it clinched third place with a 2-2 tie at Jamaica.
For eight minutes, Mexico was looking at missing out on the World Cup finals by its own doing for the first time since 1982 -- it was barred from taking part in the 1990 World Cup because of a scandal involving its under-20 national team -- after Luis Tejada, who plays in Mexico for Veracruz, scored to put Panama ahead, 2-1, in the 84th minute.
In San Jose, Bryan Ruiz put Costa Rica ahead in the 25th minute, Oribe Peralta equalized for Mexico four minutes later, but Real Salt Lake's Alvaro Saborio put the Ticos ahead again in the 64th minute.
As the clock ran down simultaneously in San Jose and Panama City, the Tico crowd at the Estadio Nacional went wild with the prospect of a historic win over Mexico, and El Tri showed little sign of finding a tying goal that would sent it through to the two-leg intercontinental playoffs against New Zealand Nov. 14 and 20 no matter the result in Panama City.
Mexico star Javier Hernandez, who came off injured in the second half, slumped in his seat on the substitute's bench -- as it turned out, the yellow card that he picked up will keep him out of the first leg against New Zealand -- and Victor Manuel Vucetich, coaching Mexico for just the second game, inched closer and closer to the field as the games in San Jose and Panama City wound down.
Then came the news that Zusi had tied the game in Panama City and Vucetich stepped away from the field. He could relax. At least for now.
That Mexico has struggled in both games under Vucetich -- El Tri's third coach of the Hexagonal -- didn't seem matter.
"The idea is to qualify," said Vucetich, who added the playoffs, or the Repechaje as they call it in Mexico, will give him more time to work with his players.
But from Marquez's point of view, that means lots of work.
"We've hit rock bottom," he said after the game.
He couldn't even thank the USA for bailing El Tri out.
"I hang my head in shame," he said, "and it’s embarrassing for us to qualify like that."
HONDURAN HOLIDAY.Honduras President Porfirio Lopez declared a national holiday after the Catrachos returned to the World Cup finals for the second straight time on the final day of the Hexagonal.
Four years ago, Honduras clinched when Jonathan Bornstein's goal in stoppage time earned the USA a 2-2 tie with Costa Rica and doomed the Ticos to the intercontinental playoffs, which they lost to Uruguay.
On Tuesday night, Honduras, which suited up eight current or former MLS players, only needed to tie Jamaica or have Mexico not beat Costa Rica to clinch.
The Catrachos got a goal in the first minute from former Houston Dynamo striker Carlo Costly and a goal from Maynor Figueroa in the second half and coasted to a 2-2 tie after giving up an own goal and a penalty kick to Rodolph Austin.
Hexagonal Final Standings:
PTS TEAM W-T-L +/-
22 USA 7-1-2 15/8
18 Costa Rica 5-3-2 13/7
15 Honduras 4-2-4 13/12
11 Mexico 2-5-3 7/9
8 Panama 1-5-4 10/14
5 Jamaica 0-5-5 5/13
Panama 2 USA 3
Jamaica 2 Honduras 2
Costa Rica 2 Mexico 2
Hexagonal Leading Scorers:
4 Jozy Altidore, USA
4 Jerry Bengtson, Honduras
4 Carlo Costly, Honduras
3 Clint Dempsey, USA
3 Oribe Peralta, Mexico
3 Bryan Ruiz, Costa Rica