Mexico got their ticket to the U-20 World Cup after beating El Salvador 1-0. Mexico dominated the game but the lack of shooting accuracy returned, which meant the win didn’t reflect the level of play and the danger always remained.
Mexico qualified to Group B along with Panama and El Salvador, with the top two teams in the group qualifying to the World Cup. El Salvador lost against Panama by 1-0 on Tuesday which meant they needed to win or tie against Mexico. It also meant that Mexico’s win qualified Panama in the process.
On Monday, both Mexico and Panama will face each other to see who wins the group and gets to play the final against the Group A winner.
Mexico went through a tougher than expected group stage in the CONCACAF U-20 Championship. While they went undefeated with four wins and one draw, the tie against Jamaica meant both teams finished with 13 points. Mexico, though, had the better goal difference by +8 and qualified to the next stage. Mexico would then get a much needed break after a group stage that had just one day of rest between games.
Once in the second round, Mexico was facing an El Salvador team that was not only coming from a defeat to Panama but seemed to be a better matched opponent. El Salvador’s defeat to the Canaleros meant thy needed to win or draw to have a chance to qualify to the U-20 World Cup, and Mexico was clearly favored. El Tri took control of the match from the initial whistle and started with their two best players in Diego Lainez and Misael Dominguez. It would be a great play and cross from Domginuez that would allow Daniel Lopez to head the ball into the back of the net to give Mexico the lead.
Mexico seemed to have started their domination but a big mistake almost gave El Salvador the equalizer. Gilberto Sepulveda, who had a bad game, made a mistake and gave the ball to Salvadoran forward Ronald Cerritos. Cerritos found his way into Mexico’s area and forced the goalkeeper to make a good save.
The rest of the half was all Mexico, and the came close to grabbing a second goal when a Lainez through ball to Dominguez was miraculously cleared by a Salvadoran defender.
The second half started and once again a mistake by Sepulveda almost gave El Salvador the equalizing goal. Sepulveda left an El Salvador player through into the area and his shot had to be saved by Mexico’s keeper Carlos Higuera.
Thereafter, Mexico once again dominated the match. Daniel Lopez had a free kick saved by the Salvadoran keeper, and after a corner kick wasn’t properly cleared, Jose Macias came close with a shot that barely went wide.
Mexico chose to sub out Diego Lainez for Carlos Gutierrez and then Macias for Edgar Lopez, which meant coach Diego Ramirez was conservatively hoping to hold on to the score. The changes didn’t help Mexico offensively, and El Salvador pressured with some help from bad plays from Mexican defenders. Still, it was Mexico who came the closest to scoring when off a corner kick, Gutierrez failed to deflect a ball that was twice headed by Mexican players. Mexico, however, held on to the win and earn their ticket to the World Cup.
While Mexico was by far the better team, it wasn’t a great performance by them. Their domination failed to produce as much danger as needed, and once again the shooting accuracy and the predictability in the attack came back. Panama will be a tougher foe, although Mexico will have the relieve and lack of pressure of finally getting its ticket to the U2-0 World Cup and thus getting their first obligation out of the way. That said, some doubts still remain, and this team will need to improve a lot to have a real impact in the World Cup. The good news is there is time, and maybe different players to give an increase in confidence for Poland 2019.