Mexico bounced back from a disappointing Round of 16 game against Puerto Rico to crush El Salvador by a score of 5-1, qualifying them for the U17 World Cup to be held in Brazil later in the year. Mexico dominated most of the game and went into cruise mode as they handled an El Salvador team that crumbled under the pressure of the well played game by the El Tri U17 team. Mexico will now face Haiti in the semifinals as they try to win the Tournament, but the main goal of getting the ticket to the U17 World Cup was accomplished. Every thing after this game will be gravy, as Mexico will get another crack at the World Cup to once again get to the ultimate goal of being a world powerhouse in the category after a disappointing 2017 showing
Mexico started the first half going forward, and it didn’t take long for a good chance that was cleared to a corner kick. The El Salvador goalkeeper, Sergio Sibrian, had to clear the corner to stop it from scoring an “Olympico” goal. It didn’t take long for Mexico to open the scoring. A great combination play through the wings was finished with a cross that El Salvador couldn’t clear out. Israel Luna took advantage, and his shot was deflected by both a defender and the El Salvador keeper as it went in for the 1-0. Luna had another good opportunity, but he failed to control the ball in the area and it went out. Mexico continued to dominate, as El Salvador didn’t show much cohesion and were making Mexico’s job easier. Mexico came close when a header by Santiago Munoz went just wide after a free kick. After a long ball by Eugenio Pizzuto, Bryan Gonzalez had a great opportunity that he wouldn’t waste. His low left footed shot went past the El Salvador keeper for the 2-0. Mexico continued to dominate as they also seemed more comfortable in the hot conditions. Israel Luna went close to scoring again, but his low shot went wide. In the 35th minute, El Salvador had their first chance of the game when a low shot by an attacker went just wide from the left post. El Salvador’s Kevin Roman should’ve been red carded when he threw the ball angrily at the referee but he was only yellow carded. A defensive mistake gave Mexico the 3-0 lead. Bryan Gonzalez made a great play, stealing the ball and then making a good cross which forced a scramble in the area. Defender Rodrigo Rodriguez failed to control the ball, instead sending it into the net for the own goal. The halftime whistle blew to end a first half where Mexico was in cruise control while El Salvador looked lost.
The second half started with Mexico on the offense again. After a corner kick a minute in, a Mexican header was cleared off the line by the El Salvador defense. Then a minute later Leonardo Correa, who had just been subbed in, made a great play as he looped the ball over a defender’s head and then got his shot off. Sibrian made a great stop but right into the path of Israel Luna, who scored the tap in for his second goal and the 4-0 score. With frustration setting in, the game started getting chippy and a couple of yellow cards came out for both sides. After a free kick, El Salvador got one goal back when the ball fell to Emerson Mauricio who scored from close range. Mexican defenders protested for handball and in the instant replay it did look to have bounced off an El Salvador’s player hand before falling to Mauricio, but the referee missed it. Mexico continued to dominate and El Salvador once again started getting physical to deal with their frustration. Mexico started to slow down their pace even more, and off a corner kick Atlas’ Jesus Gomez handled the ball for a penalty kick. Mauricio took it, but Mexico keeper Eduardo Garcia stopped it. Off the ensuing corner kick, El Salvador had another opportunity but they gave the ball straight to Garcia. El Salvador had taken advantage of Mexico’s attempt to but it wouldn’t last long. Off a counter attack, Israel Luna found a wide open Bruce El-Mesmari, who took the ball and lobbed it over the keeper. Ricardo Rodriguez tried to clear it but he put in his own net although the goal should’ve been given to El-Mesmari, as the ball had the destination to the goal and it would have been a great save from Rodriguez to get it out. Mexico once again took control of the ball in the game, as El Salvador again went back to their disorganized attacks.
Mexico being able to bounce back in the key game of the tournament is a big accomplishment. While there might be reports in that the score might have flattered Mexico, the fact is that while the game didn’t have Mexico having opportunity after opportunity, they dictated the game. El Salvador didn’t get their first real chance until the 35th minute and it was the only one. El Salvador didn’t start challenging Mexico until the middle of the second half with the score being 4-0. Mexico were able to conserve energy and were well deserved winners. Mexico will now face a tough Haiti team, with the goal being to conquer the tournament. But in the end, this was the most important match and the most important goal was met.