Mexico had to suffer but ended up prevailing over Canada in the U23 CONCACAF Championship, grabbing the last ticket in football to the upcoming 2021 Olympic Games in Tokyo. Mexico was the better side all game but had to suffer against a well coached Canadian team that knew exactly how to bother Mexico, and yet for a third straight tournament they end up losing to their ticket to the Olympic games against Mexico. Mexico will now face Honduras, who earlier on had grabbed the other ticket to the Olympic Games in the final for a third straight time.
The first half started with Sebastian Cordova and Jesus Alberto Angulo returning to the starting lineup for Mexico along with Carlos Rodriguez. Jose Juan Macias, Gilberto Sepulveda, and Alejandro Mayorga returned to the bench. As expected, the first minutes had Mexico with the possession as Canada sat back and waited to counter. The first opportunity came when Rodriguez found Roberto Alvarado, whose shot was well saved by Canada’s goalkeeper James Pantemis. Mexico would get another chance after a couple of minutes when Cordova dribbled through a couple of defenders, but his shot was blocked by Pantemis. In the ensuing corner kick, Joaquin Esquivel came close to scoring but his header went just wide. Mexico had an incredible chance when after Canada lost the ball they had a three-on-two play, but Uriel Antuna’s shot was stopped by a great save from Pantemis. Later Antuna would get in the area after a pass from Alexis Vega but he couldn’t control the ball and Pantemis was able to hold on to it. There were cries from Mexico about a possible penalty kick after Cordova fell in the area, but the referee didn’t give it and replays showed it was the correct call. Later Johan Vasquez got a header off a free kick but it went wide. Canada would get their first shot, but it was right into the hand of Mexico’s goalkeeper Sebastian Jurado. In the last minute of play, after a possible foul Mexican and Canadian players got into a big scuffle that started with a fight between Vladimir Loroña and Tajon Buchanan. Both players were yellow carded and the half ended with Mexico dominating the match but Canada doing a good job of containing and frustrating Mexico.
The second half started with neither team having made a substitution at halftime. Mexico had a clear opportunity which would have gotten Mexico a one-on-one but Antuna got brought down by David Norman, in what was a yellow card foul but should have been a red card as the last defender. Then after Mexico pressured Pantemis, he ended giving the ball straight to Carlos Rodriguez, who then found Uriel Antuna in the area who got a right footed shot past Pantermis for the 1-0 lead. Pantemis had been Canada’s best player, but he ended up making a big mistake and Mexico finally took advantage. Canada immediately made two substitution by subbing out Lucas Dias and Charles Brym for Theo Bair and Ballou Tabla. Meanwhile Mexico subbed out Roberto Alvarado for Jose Juan Macias.
After a couple of minutes, Mexico got a free kick. In the cross Johan Vasquez rose to head the ball and hit the post but the ball bounced off David Norman and right into Vasquez, who entered with the ball for the 2-0 lead. It was a key goal, and Mexico looked to have hit Canada mentally. A minute later, Cordova got a cross into the area that Pantemis blocked into the path of Carlos Rodriguez but his shot went just wide. Later, Rodriguez would come close again with another shot. A good combination play ended with a shot by Macias that Pantemis saved with some trouble. Mexico started to dominate possession and play with Canada’s desperation. Mexico would sub out Erick Aguirre and Alexis Vega for Jesus Ricardo Angulo and Alejandro Mayorga. Later Canada would sub out Callum Montgomery and Michael Baldisimo for Diyaeddine Abzi and Ryan Rapos as Mexico subbed out Carlos Rodriguez for Alan Cervantes. Canada would make a last push and with Mexico subbing in Cervantes, it looked like they would sit back more. Mexico looked to have a chance but Macias header went wide. Mexico kept the ball and took it away as Canada tried but just couldn’t keep possession. The pattern would continue and Mexico would end up winning and booking their ticket to the Olympic games.
Mexico was frustrated for large part of the game, especially in the first half but they were the better side and the win was deserved. Mexico thus get their first goal of the tournament in once again qualifying to the OIympic games. Coach Jaime Lozano will have a lot of work to do with the team and it starts on Tuesday when they will face an Honduras side that will probably be more physical and will try to frustrate Mexico even more. Mexico may improve now that the pressure of getting a ticket is off. While the team will be asked to win the tournament, today was the real final and with Mexico punching their ticket for Tokyo, players and fans should be celebrating that the main mission was accomplished.