Napoli forward Hirving Lozano proved to be the matchwinner for Mexico in a 1-0 international friendly victory over Costa Rica on Tuesday.
LA Galaxy midfielder Efrain Alvarez was handed his first cap for El Tri after coming off the bench in the second half. Mexico and United States are both trying to persuade him to commit his international future to them.
Alvarez, 18, has been heralded as one of the best young midfielders in North America. Born in Los Angeles to Mexican parents, he has previously played for Mexico at youth level, and been involved in a United States training camp in recent months. Both countries named him in their squads for the CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying Tournament last week though he did not play for either.
He must choose either Mexico or United States before the CONCACAF Gold Cup in July.
Mexico had to wait until the 89th minute to find the only goal of the game, being played in the Austrian town of Wiener Neustadt, just south of Vienna, as Lozano headed home from close range after a corner routine.
Lozano had to again deputise as the main forward in the absence of the injured Raul Jimenez, and performed better than in Saturday’s 1-0 loss to Wales. Mexico has struggled to find any rhythm without Jimenez, especially when Tecatito Corona’s creativity had no focal point to aim for.
Costa Rica has been without a victory for more than a year and couldn’t find a way past its CONCACAF rival. Bryan Ruiz wasted the clearest for the Central American side on the hour.
Mexico coach Tata Martinez recognised that his team was struggling in the second half so brought on Diego Lainez and Orbelin Pineda, and that ignited Lozano.
Between Pineda and Lainez, plus Hector Herrera who also came off the bench, Mexico found much more fluidity to put pressure on Keylor Navas in the Costa Rica goal, resulting in the late winner.