In desperate need of a win to keep the World Cup within reach, Mexico seemed on the verge of yet another collapse at the once impenetrable Azteca. Chicharito had his 58th-minute penalty saved and Panama erased Mexico's 1-0 lead in the 81st minute to stun the home crowd into a now familiar sense of frustration. The jeers were suddenly turned on full blast, but 22-year-old Raul Jimenez turned them back to a wave of cheers with an absolutely tremendous overhead winner.
Jimenez had never scored a World Cup qualifying goal before the 86th minute of this match. He just scored his first two international goals at the Gold Cup in July, but in the 83rd minute, new manager Victor Vucetich used his final substitution to put him on for Jesus Zavala and he immediately delivered with a breath-taking display of acrobatics.
The 2-1 win puts Mexico back in fourth place in the CONCACAF World Cup qualifying table and three points behind third-place Honduras with one match left to play against second-place Costa Rica. If they finish fourth, they must face New Zealand in a two-leg playoff in order to reach the World Cup in Brazil.
Before beating Panama, Mexico's World Cup future was so uncertain that Adidas decided to have them wear their World Cup kit now — long before any other Adidas team even shows their new kit — just to be sure the thing was put to use. There are a lot of people who owe Raul Jimenez big time. And Chicharito is at the top of the list.
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- Raul Jimenez