Jimenez bicycle kick saves Mexico World Cup bid
Mexico won a new chance to qualify for the World Cup after an epic bicycle kick by Raul Alonso Jimenez helped his team defeat Panama on Friday.
Jimenez scored his wonder goal five minutes before the end and just two minutes after entering the game to give the home side a 2-1 victory at a packed Azteca Stadium in Mexico City.
"For me it was very important to come into the game and make a difference with this great goal at that time, because we regained confidence and we made fans happy," Jimenez said.
Mexico were in danger of missing their first World Cup finals in a quarter century after having won only one game and scoring a paltry four goals in eight qualifiers before Friday's triumph.
"El Tri" have qualified for 14 of the last 19 world cups and last missed it in 1990 when they were banned for fielding overage players in a youth tournament.
Missing the tournament in Brazil next year would break hearts in the football-crazy nation and cost broadcasters, sponsors and other businesses hundreds of millions of dollars, according to sport marketing experts.
The victory now gives Mexico command of the fourth spot in the CONCACAF regional group, which would give them a playoff game with Oceania champions New Zealand.
The United States and Costa Rica have secured two of the three direct qualifying spots with one round left to play on Tuesday.
Honduras defeated Cost Rica 1-0 earlier to hold on to the third spot with 14 points, three ahead of Mexico, and need only to draw at last-placed Jamaica on Tuesday to clinch the final direct entry from North and Central America and the Caribbean.
Mexico, who face Costa Rica on Tuesday, still have a slim chance of avoiding the New Zealand clash and qualifying outright as the third-place finishers in the six-nation group. But there is still a slight chance they could be knocked from fourth place by Panama, who host the United States in the final set of matches next week.
Mexico manager Victor Manuel Vucetich, who replaced Jose Manuel de la Torre last month to coach the final two games, was cautious, saying the victory was "just a step, nothing else."
"We won, but we still have one game to go to have this possibility to go to the World Cup," said Vucetich, dubbed "King Midas" for the dozen trophies he has won with Mexican clubs.
Mexico opened the score against Panama at the 40th minute wih Manchester United forward Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez lobbing a pass to Oribe Peralta who didn't miss his chance inside the area.
But Hernandez missed a penalty in the second half after his weak attempt was saved by goalkeeper Jaime Penedo.
His miss was followed by a costly mistake by keeper Guillermo Ochoa, whose failure to secure the ball inside the area allowed Luis Tejada to tap it in from close range in the 80th.
But Jimenez came in for Jesus Eduardo Zavala and revived Mexico's hopes.
"It was a spectacular, beautiful goal, and above all very exciting because of the situation we were in," Vucetich said.
Related Mexico News