Mexico had a tough battle but they were able to prevail and win their third straight U23 CONCACAF Championship, defeating Honduras in a penalty shootout by a 5-4 score. Mexico had come from behind to get a 1-1 tie in regular time and suffered for 120 minutes but were able to get a title, their first in a penalty shootout. Honduras battled hard and took control of the match after Mexico’s coach Jaime Lozano couldn’t get control of the match after a substitution didn’t play out well. Both Mexico and Honduras will go to the Olympics as CONCACAF’s representatives after their semifinal wins on Sunday against Canada and the United States respectively.
The first half started with Mexico making numerous changes, including benching players like Sebastian Cordova, Uriel Antuna, Alexis Vega, and Vladimir Loroña because of rest. After a couple of minutes, Mexico had their first opportunity when a cross into the area found Roberto Alvarado, who had a free header but it went wide. Mexico controlled possession in the early minutes but Honduras handled them well. The game turned pretty even and then in a bad play Honduras defender Denil Maldonado jumped and injured himself badly as he fell, having to be stretchered off as he cried. Honduras had to make their first sub early, bringing in Carlos Melendez. Mexico continued to dominate the match, although they weren’t creating much as Honduras sat back more efficiently than before. A ball fell into the area and Juan Jose Macias got off a left footed shot that went wide. Mexico could have had an opportunity when a run into the area of Jesus Ricardo Angulo ended with a pass that Honduras’ goalkeeper Alex Guity bobbled, but was able to handle it before Macias could get to the ball. Honduras started to get more control of the ball and although they were as toothless as Mexico, they had gained more of it than the local side. The halftime whistle blew and the match remained scoreless.
The second half started with Mexico subbing in Uriel Antuna for Carlos Rodriguez, a strange move after leaving Jesus Ricardo Angulo on the field. Honduras subbed in Jose Reyes for Carlos Argueta. After a couple of minutes were Mexico were better, Honduras had the best opportunity of the game when Luis Palma got off a shot that forced Mexico’s goalkeeper, Sebastian Jurado to make a save. The rebound fell to an Honduras attacker who also got off a shot that forced Jurado to make a second save. Honduras continued to attack and for the first time looked to be controlling possession. Mexico needed to take control and subbed out Roberto Alvarado for Sebastian Cordova. Honduras got a shot from Palma that forced Jurado to make a save. Honduras then subbed out Douglas Martinez for Rigoberto Rivas. A minute later, Honduras would get a shot that forced Jurado to make a save as Honduras was clearly the better team now. Mexico subbed out Erick Aguirre and Jesus Ricardo Angulo for Jose Esquivel and Alexis Vega. Mexico then had an opportunity off a free kick when Vega found Macias, who volleyed and force Guity to make a save. The rebound fell to Alan Cervantes who looked to have scored but was correctly ruled to be offside. A minute later Alan Mozo lost a ball and it ended up in the feet of Edwin Rodriguez, who got off a long range bomb past Jurado for the 1-0 lead. Honduras had deservedly gotten the lead after Mexico had lost the midfield with Rodriguez substitution. Mexico would start to get desperate and on a counter attack, Macias got into the area and was dropped after a slide that the referee called as a penalty kick, with replays showing that the defender slid into the feet of Macias. Jose Juan Macias stepped up to take it and placed a right footed shot past Guity for the 1-1 tie. Mexico started to push up and Honduras seemed to get desperate and protest after a foul on Antuna, as they felt to have been done wrong by the referee. Mexico had a good opportunity in injury time where after a corner kick was cleared, the ball went back into the area to a wide open Alexis Vega, but his shot was right into the hand of Guity, when he probably could have done better with a pass into the area. That turned to be the best chance in the second half, making the game go into extra time at 1-1.
Extra time started with Honduras subbing in Jose Pinto. Mexico got the first chance off a free kick when Macias rose to head a ball and it went wide. A minute later, Antuna got a ball into the area and got off a left footed shot that went just wide after a deflection off a defender. A corner kick should’ve been given but wasn’t. Honduras got a free kick and a header from Juan Obregon forced Jurado to make a great save. Honduras then wasted a great chance when Jose Garcia rose in the corner kick to get a wide open header, but it went wide. Mexico answered with a ball in the area that Alan Cervantes got to but wasted with a shot that went wide. Mexico subbed out Jose Juan Macias for Santiago Muñoz. Mexico had most of the possession as it looked like Rodriguez had taken a knock. Still there was no change, and Mexico had control of the ball but time ran out in the first half of injury time. The second half of injury time started with a very even matchup. Mexico made their final move by subbing out Alejandro Mayorga for Jesus Alberto Angulo. A minute later it looked like Alan Cervantes was getting cramps, but there were no more substitutions left for either team. The game continued to get chippy with both teams looking very tired. After a cleared ball went into the middle both Cervantes and Rivas had a clash of heads. The game turned very even and in the end, there was no time left and the match went to penalties.
Mexico and Honduras went to the coin toss and Honduras ended up taking them first. Obregon stepped up to take the first and took a right footed shot that Sebastian Jurado easily stopped. It wasn’t a good take but Jurado did well in stopping it. Johan Vasquez took Mexico’s first and with a left footed shot got the 1-0. Edwin Rodriguez stepped up for the second and with a low right footed shot scored to make it 1-1. Alan Mozo took Mexico’s second and with a right footed shot, scored to make it 2-1. Rigoberto Rivas took the next PK and scored with a right footed shot to make it 2-2. Uriel Antuna took the third try for Mexico and fooled the Honduras keeper to make it 3-2, placing it close the post. Carlos Melendez took a great right footed shot to make it 3-3 and then Jesus Alberto Angulo got a left footed shot past Guity to make it 4-3. Jose Reyes needed to convert or Honduras would lose the match, and he got a left footed shot that Jurado almost stopped but it slipped through his fingers to make it 4-4. Alexis Vega then stepped up for the fifth penalty kick and with a strong great right footed shot and converted, giving Mexico the title of the 2021 U23 CONCACAF Championship.
Mexico achieved both of their goals prior to the tournament, with getting the Olympic Ticket and winning the competition. Mexico suffered the most in the final after having most of the possession in the first half, Lozano’s decision to sub out Carlos Rodriguez ended up costing Mexico dearly. Without Rodriguez, Mexico lost the midfield and Honduras took advantage, taking control of the match. Credit to Mexico, they battled hard after going down and the penalty kick gave Mexico the opportunity to tie the game. Now with the ticket, Mexico will be preparing for the Olympics with Lozano getting the added boost of three over age players as well as the U23 players that were playing in Mexico’s European tour (Edson Alvarez, Diego Lainez, Jorge Sanchez, Cesar Montes, and Gerardo Arteaga). Honduras also look like a primed coached team and it looks like CONCACAF will have a solid representation in the 2021 Olympic Games.