Mexico got their first victory in the Gold Cup after defeating Guatemala by a 3-0 score in their second game of the group stage. Mexico had to get past a heavy rain that delayed the start of their match, and the wet conditions wound up hampering them. Guatemala had a good start but soon faltered, and Mexico was the superior team for the whole match with the score maybe even falling short. Mexico will now have to close out the group stage with a match against El Salvador, who has won both games and would win the group with a tie.
The first half started after the rain delay with Mexico having Orbelin Pineda take the injured Hirving Lozano’s place. Guatemala surprised Mexico by going on the offensive, and Mexico slipped up by giving Guatemala a corner kick. Off the corner kick, Darwin Lom got a header but it went wide. Mexico then came close when off a free kick, an Erick Gutierrez cross was cleared by a Guatemalan defender in what would have been a tap in goal for Rogelio Funes Mori had he not arrived. Then there was a harsh tackle from Carlos Salcedo on a Guatemalan player that led to a small scuffle from the very bad play. Mexico started to improve after a slow start, but they were still not creating much danger. Hector Herrera then came close with a free kick that just went wide. Mexico had a great opportunity when Funes Mori lowered a ball in the area for Gutierrez, whose shot was well saved by Guatemala’s goalkeeper Nicholas Hagen. Then after a great pass from Hector Herrera, Rogelio Funes Mori got the ball down and with a great right footed shot got the ball past Hagen for the 1-0 lead. It was a great goal and deserved lead for Mexico. Later, a shot by Edson Alvarez came close to scoring but it went just wide. The game started to get real chippy, with a very harsh foul on Luis Rodriguez that gave a yellow card to Robin Betancourth. Mexico then missed a great chance after a combination play left Funes Mori alone in the area, but his shot went wide although replays showed that he looked offside. Mexico took the lead and had dominated possession but had created too few chances to be considered a good half.
The second half started with Guatemala on an attack that finished with a Guatemalan player falling in the area but no call was given. It started a counter attack where Funes Mori combined with Corona in the area, who passed to wide open Orbelin Pineda, but he tripped in what should have been a tap in goal. Instead, it fell into the hands of Hagen and wasting the clearest opportunity so far. Later, Funes Mori got a ball in the area that he tried to lob over Hagen but he made a save and the play was offside. Then came the best play of the game, a great combination from Erick Gutierrez to Orbelin Pineda and back to Rogelio Funes Mori, with which the forward got a strong shot past Hagen for the 2-0 lead. Mexico started to play their best football in the game as they played fast against a fading Guatemala team. Mexico wasted a great opportunity when Gutierrez found Jesus Gallardo, who incredibly shot instead of crossing toward three free players in the area, and his shot went wide. Herrera then hit a shot from outside the area that was easily saved by Hagen. Mexico would make their first move by subbing out Erick Gutierrez for Jonathan Dos Santos. A minute later it looked like Carlos Salcedo injured himself. Mexico would have a great opportunity when the ball fell to Funes Mori and he found Corona in the area but his shot was first blocked by a defender and his next shot went wide. Then after a great combination of passes, Luis Rodriguez would sent a cross into the area where Orbelin Pineda would get wide open and get a header past Hagen for the 3-0. With the score settling the result, Mexico made three substitutions. Jesus Corona, Nestor Araujo, and Rogelio Funes Mori went out for Efrain Alvarez, Gilberto Sepulveda, and Alan Pulido. Hector Herrera then made a great play but he shot wide instead of making a pass to a wide open Alvarez. Herrera then then got subbed out for Erick Sanchez. Mexico had a good three-on-three attack, but the ball ended being cleared by a Guatemalan team that was completely tired out. Later Gallardo got into the area but his shot was saved by Hagen, who dove into his feet. In the final minutes, a Guatemalan fan entered the field with a flag stopping play. There would be no time for more and Mexico would get their deserved victory over Guatemala, eliminating them in the process.
After a first game where the horrible accident to Lozano made the match almost meaningless, Mexico got a great result to correct things. Mexico suffered in the first half where Guatemala’s spirit and the wet conditions had the team failing to get their style of play. Yet Mexico improved in the second half, probably because the lack of rain helped dry the field and they dominated, as well as Guatemala started to wilt because of their inferior physical presence as well as the fact that they were chasing the ball all over the field. Still there were problems especially as players like Corona, didn’t have the best game. Yet Funes Mori, Herrera, and Orbelin Pineda had very good performances. It’s especially important for Pineda, who had a terrible debut match against Trinidad and Tobago.
They will now play an El Salvador team who sits on first place with six points. The main problem for Mexico is that they need a win to get first place while El Salvador will get first place with a tie. This means that the Central American side should take a page from Trinidad and Tobago and extremely bunker to try to get a scoreless tie. While they are a better side than Guatemala and could try their early approach and surprise Mexico, they aren’t as physically strong as Mexico (or Trinidad) and will probably falter in the end, as well as open themselves up (something Guatemala was very careful even when they tried to attack). It could be a game where Mexico will be pressured to get a win, and El Salvador sets themselves for a good strategy under Hugo Perez, who was working with the Mexican federation prior to becoming El Salvador’s U23 head coach and thus should know Mexico well.