MEXICO CITY - The Mexican National Team went into the match against Panama in a “must win” situation to keep the World Cup hopes alive. And a 2-1 win is what they got with a fantasy strike from Raul Jimenez four minutes from the end of the match.
Mexico dominated the possession in the first half, but not much danger was created on the Panamanian goal. Both Javier Aquino and Giovani Dos Santos who are teammates in Spain’s Villareal were not able to connect with their teammates like the manager had planned.
The host did find a lifeline close to the end of the first half as Oribe Peralta was able to finish off a high pass from Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez. The goal brought tranquility over the home side as the teams went into the break.
For the second half Mexico continued with their plan of controlling the ball but with the ease of having the lead. El Tri had a golden opportunity doubled their lead as Javier Aquino chased a long pass and beat by speed the Panamanian defender who ended up pushing Aquino down. The center referee awarded Mexico the penalty kick.
Manchester United striker Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez stepped up to take the kick and had his soft low shot saved by Panama and LA Galaxy goalkeeper Jaime Penedo.
Just like in the Honduras match Mexico was not able to hold on to their 1-0 lead and the Panamanians found an equalizer that would have inched them to that 4th place World Cup playoff spot. The Mexican defenders all stood still on the play raising their arms hoping to hear an offside whistle that never came.
After goal, young Club America striker Raul Jimenez was brought into the game and came up with something magical. In a pass from Xolos’ Fernando Arce, Jimenez controlled the ball with his back to the goal on the edge of the box, the ball went up into the air and without thinking about it twice; Jimenez jumped into the air with an amazing bicycle kick which found the lower corner of the goal to give Mexico the lead, the win, the three points, and the dream of indeed making it to the World Cup.
Mexico will now travel to Costa Rica where they’ll play their final qualifying match. Mexico can still qualify directly to the World Cup if they win their match and Honduras suffers a surprising loss to Jamaica. With a draw Mexico secures the 4th place and a playoff series against New Zealand.