Mexico closed out the group stages with a surprising 1-0 win against Uruguay that gave Mexico the ticket to the Semifinals of the 2023 Pan American Games. While maybe prior to the tournament it wouldn’t have been as surprising a result, the Ricardo Cadena coached team had a terrible spell in the previous matches where they lost to hosts Chile by a 1-0 score and tied with the Dominican Republic 0-0. Mexico will now have an incredibly tough challenge after finishing in second place of the group, as they will face Brazil who won all their matches in the prior stage, in the Semifinal of the tournament. Mexico improved and got the result in a match that was marred by a big fight at the end between teams.
The first half started with Mexico coming out with the same starting 11 they had in the first two matches, despite the weak results they had gotten so far. 12 seconds into the match, Mexico won a ball in the area that Pablo Monroy got to, forcing Uruguay defender Jairo O’Neil to handle it and giving Mexico a penalty kick, Fidel Ambriz stepped up to take it, but his right footed shot was brilliantly stopped by goalkeeper Ramiro Mendez. It was a great save, but it was another disappointment added to Mexico’s tournament. On the ensuing corner kick, Mendez did a poor job trying to clear the ball but unfortunately for Mexico, nobody was there to take advantage of it. After winning the ball, Diego Hernandez got off a left footed shot from outside the area that went just wide. A cross from Juan Cruz de los Santos turned into a great shot that forced Mexico’s goalkeeper Fernando Tapia to make a great save, which was then cleared by Mexico’s defense. After making a run, Sebastian Figueredo got of a left footed shot that was saved by Tapia. While the game had been even and both teams traded possession, Uruguay was the one getting thechances. Bryan Gonzalez then got the ball in the area but his left footed shot was blocked by Uruguay’s defense. A right footed shot from Manuel Monzeglio went just wide. Then after a throw in, Jordan Carrillo got the ball and made an incredible play as he went past five Uruguayan players and got off a great cross to forward Ettson Ayon, but Uruguayan defender Alan Saldivia deflected it past Mendez for the own goal that gave Mexico the 1-0 lead. While the goal was an own goal, ALL of the play’s credit should go to Carrillo, who made a wonderful play that broke the stalemate in what was by far Mexico’s best moment of the tournament. After getting a great pass by Carrillo, Ayon had a great opportunity but his left footed shot went right to Mendez, as he had slipped while taking it. Uruguay responded and gained more possession, but Mexico held on and took their 1-0 lead to the halftime break.
The second half started with Uruguay subbing out Manuel Monzeglio for Emiliano Rodriguez. From the start of the half, the match was chippy, which is a fairly common thing in games between these two sides. Off of a free kick, the ball fell into the area but the shots were blocked by Mexico’s defense before the ball fell to de los Santos, who had a bad miss on a left footed shot that he sent wide. Uruguay players asked for a handball in the area by Mexico, but nothing was given. Replays showed it was the correct call, as the ball bounced off Rafael Fernandez’s leg. Later off of a counter, Gonzalez lost the ball into Ayon’s path and he got off a right footed volley that went right to Mendez. Uruguay responded with a great right footed shot from outside the area by Rodrigo Piñeiro, but fortunately for Mexico the ball hit the post. Uruguay then subbed out Diego Hernandez for Joaquin Lavega. Mexico meanwhile subbed out Bryan Gonzalez for Ali Avila. Uruguay had more of the possession as Mexico relied on sitting back defensively and getting off counter attacks. A cross into the area was headed by Lavega, but Tapia was able to easily get to the ball. Uruguay then subbed out Jairo O’Neil for Renzo Orihuela. Mexico then had a great chance when Carrillo got a through ball to Ayon, but his shot was deflected by Uruguay’s defense and though it fell back to Carrillo, his shot was also deflected by Uruguay’s defense in a tough chance after Ayon had wasted a great opportunity. Mexico subbed out Ettson Ayon and Jordan Carrillo for Ramiro Arciga and Juan Brigido, while Uruguay subbed out Juan Cruz de los Santos for Dylan Nandin. A right footed shot from Piñeiro then went just wide. With Uruguay needing the tie and Mexico needing to secure the victory, the match started to get violent with harsh tackles and scuffles being a constant. A cross into the area was just out of reach of two Uruguayan attackers that would have had an open net chance should they have reached it. Mexico later subbed out Raymundo Fulgencio for Jesus Garza. The Uruguayan players then started to have confrontations with Mexico’s coaching staff. Later, they started to have fights on the field as Mexico tried to maintain possession of the ball. Mexico had a great counter when Avila had a possible one-on-two but his lobbed ball fell easily to Mendez. It was the final chance of the match, and Mexico held on for the victory. This started the major scuffles between the eliminated Uruguayans and Mexico which according to reports, got worse in the dressing room area.
Mexico came into the match having had a terrible tournament up to that point. While losing to hosts Chile in their opener by a 1-0 score might not have been a surprising result, the fact of the matter is the score flattered Mexico, who were overly inferior in the game. Under Cadena, Mexico seemed out of it from the start and with no cohesive offensive plan. Mexico then needed to beat the Dominican Republic, easily the weakest team in the group, although they had only lost to Uruguay by a 1-0 score. Mexico was the better team but not by much, and the Dominican Republic had some chances caused by Mexico’s desperation to go into the attack. Goalkeeper Fernando Tapia came up with some big saves and Mexico only had a 0-0 score. Thus Mexico came into the match against Uruguay as heavy underdogs, but they gave their best performance of the tournament to get the win. It was however still far from satisfactory, with them once again having very little idea when going on offense. The situation keeps looking bad for Mexico, as they will face a Brazil side who won all of their matches and looks to be the superior team. Mexico will hope to make a bigger upset, but they will have their work cut out for them on Wednesday.