Mexico went back to their old ways, losing their first match under interim coach Jaime Lozano by a 1-0 score. Because of their two wins, Mexico still won the group and qualified to the quarterfinals of the Gold Cup, but the loss leaves a sour taste in the mouth of the fans. Mexico, who have historically suffered when teams sit back and bunker in defense, fell to Qatar as veteran coach Carlos Queiroz had that strategy clear and got away with it. Mexico will face the second placed team of Group D, which right now is Martinique but it could be any of the four teams in the group.
The first half started with a number of changes. Julian Araujo came in for the suspended Jorge Sanchez, while Santiago Gimenez, Ozziel Herrera, Israel Reyes, Carlos Rodriguez, and Gerardo Arteaga all got their first start in the tournament. An early cross from Arteaga forced a save from Qatar´s goalkeeper, Meshaal Barsham. Gimenez got into the area and got off a left footed shot that was saved by Barsham, but it was ruled to be offside. A cross from Luis Chavez almost turned to a great chance, but the ball got deflected just out of reach for Gimenez. Mexico continued to dominate, while Qatar sat back and countered from the start. Off of a free kick, Chavez got off a left footed shot that went just wide. A cross by Herrera was deflected by Barsham, but bounced off of the feet of Gimenez. A low shot from Herrera was then saved by Barsham. Then against the run of play, Mexico lost the ball and Musaab Khidir got a cross into the area. In a terrible mistake, Araujo got surprised and beaten by Hazem Shehata, who got past him and got a header that Mexico’s goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa got hands on but couldn’t stop as it went into the net for the goal that gave Qatar the surprising 1-0 lead. It was a total shock, but Qatar took advantage of Mexico’s mistake. Mexico tried to respond with a great cross by Chaves that got headed by Gimenez, but Barsham saved it. Mohammed Waad was then subbed out because of injury for Ali Asad. Orbelin Pineda got into the area, but his shot was blocked by Barsham. The ball fell to Chavez, whose cross was a little too strong for Gimenez to tap into the open net and as he didn’t have an angle, he just crossed it back to nobody. It was the end of the half and although Mexico had been the better team, it was Qatar who had the lead.
The second half started with Mexico needing to score to have something to show for all their dominance. Mexico kept attacking as Qatar held on. A cross by Araujo was well volleyed by Gimenez, but Barsham made an incredible save. Then a good cross into the area was headed by Edson Alvarez, but incredibly he headed it wide from close range. Qatar subbed out Abdullah Marafee for Youssef Harahat. Mexico meanwhile subbed out Orbelin Pineda and Ozziel Herrera for Diego Lainez and Roberto Alvarado. A cross into the area was first headed by Rodriguez and then by Araujo, but the last header went wide. After a scuffle, a player looked to have been slapped by Gimenez but after going to VAR, only a yellow card was given. After a pass by Lainez, Gimenez got into the area and got off a left footed shot that went just wide. Mexico subbed out Carlos Rodriguez for Henry Martin. Mexico continued attacking while Qatar tried to waste time, especially with their keeper constantly time wasting with dubious injuries. Qatar subbed out Tameem Al-Abdullah and Hazem Shehata for Assim Madibo and Mahdi Al Mejaba. Mexico subbed out Luis Romo and Julian Araujo for Erick Sanchez and Uriel Antuna. A pass by Alvarez to Gimenez was blocked by a defender but fell to Martin, whose right footed shot was also blocked by a defender. Off a corner kick, Alvarez rose to get a header that hit the post. After a scramble in the area, Martin got off a bicycle kick that Barshamm saved. Off a corner kick, Gimenez got a header that went just wide. Later a cross by Lainez was headed just wide by Reyes. It would be the last good chance, and Qatar held on for the win that gave them the ticket to the knockout stages.
Mexico had one of the best starts to the Gold Cup tournament in years, but Lozano’s honeymoon period ended with his first loss. Qatar came into the tournament after placing last in their own World Cup, and started the Gold Cup with a loss to Haiti and a tie against Honduras. The surprising win qualified Qatar to the quarterfinals, where they are favored to play against Panama. Mexico will need to bounce back and get it in their head that any team they will face in the quarterfinals will play them in the same defensive way that seems to give Mexico problems, and will continue with Lozano on the helm.