By DAN KARELL
For a seven-minute stretch on Tuesday night, the Mexico National Team and its fans looked fated to crash out of World Cup qualification with a loss to Costa Rica and a Panama victory.
Of course, as we all know now, two U.S. goals in stoppage time helped give the USA a 3-2 victory in Panama, keeping El Tri alive in qualification, but it didn’t improve the mood within in the Mexico squad after a disastrous Hexagonal campaign.
“It’s a shame,” veteran defender Rafa Marquez told La Aficion after Mexico’s 2-1 defeat to Costa Rica, “and it’s a shame to have to play another two games to go (to Brazil). Today we hit the bottom, we are very aware of that. We must try to go for it (the classification), we can’t let it get away. It’s our last chance for the World Cup.”
By virtue of finishing fourth in the Hexagonal, Mexico faces New Zealand next month in a two-legged playoff series, with the winner moving on to the World Cup. Mexico will host the first match on Nov. 13 or 14, with the return leg played in New Zealand on Nov. 20.
Here are some more stories to get your Wednesday started:
BARCELONA RENEW INTEREST IN HUMMELS
Barcelona’s goal over the summer had been to sign a central defender, a goal that was left unfulfilled.
While Marc Bartra has played much better this season than expected for the Catalan side, the club are still looking for a more experienced yet younger replacement for Carles Puyol, who has missed the last six months due to a major knee injury. The name that has jumped to the top of Barcelona’s wish list is Borussia Dortmund defender Mats Hummels. The German defender is reportedly available for €35 million ($47.4 million) and the Dortmund executives would let Hummels negotiate a contract with Barcelona if he did want to move.
German publication BILD has already named a potential successor for Hummels, tipping 21-year-old FC Basel centerback Fabian Schär who is available for €5 million ($6.8 million).
The 24-year-old Hummels is not yet in his prime and yet is a regular for both Borussia and the German National Team, having overcome his injury problems from late last season and playing 16 times for club and country in all competitions since August.
ÖZIL A DOUBT FOR SATURDAY
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger may have a difficult decision or two to make when he selects his team for their next match on Saturday against Norwich.
While on international duty with Germany, Mesut Özil scored a goal in their 5-3 victory at Sweden but later limped off the field with a knee injury in the 80th minute, throwing his status for this weekend up in the air. The 25-year-old midfielder is currently back in London and undergoing tests from the Arsenal medical staff to see the extent of the knee injury.
Initial reports in Sweden said that the injury was just a bruise, but it could keep him out of the Premier League tie. Luckily for Wenger, he should be boosted by the return of Santi Cazorla as well as Theo Walcott, though if the English winger is still not fit, he’ll be prepared to play in the UEFA Champions League on Tuesday against Borussia Dortmund.
Since making his Arsenal debut on September 14, Özil has played in every one of the Gunners’ games except for a League Cup tie with West Bromwich Albion.
Brazil head coach Luiz Felipe Scolari has clarified his reported comments on Diego Costa, saying that he wouldn’t necessarily call up the Brazilian-born forward but that he is on a provisional list of 45 players that are being considered for the World Cup. (REPORT)
Everton midfielder Darren Gibson has torn ligaments in his knee on international duty and will miss “several months.” (REPORT)
Former Croatia National Team captain Niko Kovac has been appointed as the newest manager of the side. (REPORT)
Dick Advocaat has been appointed the latest manager at AZ Alkmaar, taking over for the sacked Pim Verbeek. (REPORT)
Ravel Morrison and Wilfried Zaha nearly came to blows during England U-21s 5-0 defeat of their Lithuanian counterparts. (REPORT)
What do you think of these reports? Do you agree with Marquez’s comments? Do you see Barcelona spending that much for a defender? Do you believe Arsenal can win without Özil?
Share your thoughts below.