Mexico finished the 2019 Toulon Tournament on a high note, winning the third place match against Ireland on a penalty shootout. Sebastian Jurado, who inexplicably was on the bench for the whole tournament, made two saves and gave Mexico a third-place finish for the first time since 1997. Coach Jaime Lozano made a lot of changes to the starting lineup but the game was a tough match, with both teams not having great performances. Mexico will now have to set their eyes on the 2019 Pan American games, where they will take the place of the United States, as they prepare themselves for the 2020 Olympics qualifiers.
Mexico started the first half with Lozano finally making changes, including giving the first start to Christian Calderon, Marcel Ruiz, Ronaldo Cisneros, Brayton Vasquez and Alan Medina. It was Medina who had the first opportunity with a long range shot that the Irish keeper was able to handle.
With both teams making lots of changes for this match, it was at times a very disorganized level of play being carried out, but Mexico had the better start to the game. A great chance for Mexico in attack, where the ball was cleared before Ulises Cardona could get to, turned to a great counter attack for Ireland when once again (like in the Japan) a Mexican defender failed to get to the ball and left an Irish player wide open for the counter. At the end, however, the play finished with Jesus Angulo fouling to bring the defender down.
After a water break from the heat, the game quality dropped although Ireland seemed to have raised their level after it. The rest of the half had no clear chances for either side and the game unsurprisingly went as a 0-0 tie at halftime.
The second half started, and not even a minute in, a bad giveaway from Mexico had to force Brayton Vasquez to clear the ensuing cross dangerously close to the line. Unlike the first half, it was Ireland who started playing better in the second. Slowly Mexico started to improve, with Joaquin Esquivel having the time to get off a long range shot but it went wide.
Eduardo Aguirre and Pablo Lopez got subbed on for Ronaldo Cisneros and Fernando Beltran. In the best opportunity so far in the game, Alan Mozo got time for a cross but Cardona couldn’t get in time for the path and his shoot went wide. Alan Medina also got a similar play that forced the Irish defense to clear the ball to a corner kick. Off the corner kick, Esquivel came close with his header but it went wide.
Erick Aguirre got subbed on for Joaquin Esquivel. After Alan Medina was found in the area, he was able to get a left footed shot that the Irish keeper had to make the save and sent it to the corner kick before Marcel Ruiz could get to the rebound. Mexico continued to dominate possession as it looked like Ireland was suffering more from the heat. Still, Jesus Angulo had to make diving slide to take the ball away when an Irish attacker went alone in the area.
After consecutive missed chances from Alan Mozo, a corner kick finished with Cristian Calderon sending a left-footed shot just wide. A bad defensive mistake from Mexico then gave Ireland a last minute chance but the shot went wide. The game finished 0-0 and Mexico went to a penalty kick shootout for the second straight game.
The shootout started and unlike last time, it was Sebastian Jurado who would try to stop the kicks and Ireland who would shoot first. Jurado stopped the first penalty kick from Ireland. Eduardo Aguirre converted the first Mexican penalty kick. Ireland then converted theirs but Jurado came close to stopping it. Vasquez converted his before Jurado once again was able to get a hand on Ireland’s third. Erick Aguirre missed his kick to give Ireland a tie in the shootout, and Ireland was then able to take the lead for the first time in the shootout when they converted their fourth. With Cristian Calderon converting his penalty, only one spot kick remained for each team. Sebatian Jurado proceeded to stop Ireland’s fifth kick and Jesus Angulo then scored Mexico’s last penalty to give them a third place finish for the first time since 1997.
While Mexico had a great finish to their Toulon Tournament with this win, their performance wasn’t the best, although neither team did well. Mexico does get to take the monkey of their back by winning a penalty shootout especially against an European team. It’s still baffling how players like Jurado and Marcel Ruiz didn’t get a chance until today and overall Jaime Lozano failed to clear the question marks his tenure has produced. Still, it’s a small victory for Mexico to win their first third place game since 1976 in Toulon (Mexico finished third in 1997 but no 3rd place match was held that year), especially after the ominous sign that was the 5-1 loss against the Netherlands prior to this tournament.