It was not pretty but the Mexican National Team beat Curucao 2-0 on Sunday evening and advanced to the quarterfinals of the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup as Group C winners. Jamaica and El Salvador will also join El Tri in the knockout stage of the competition as Group C runners up and one of the best third place finishers respectively.
True to his hatred of consistency, Colombian manager Juan Carlos Osorio made 10 changes to the starting lineup that had faced Jamaica on Thursday evening. The 0-0 draw on Thursday in Denver plus the combination of results from Friday and Saturday in Group A and B meant that Mexico had secured its quarterfinal qualification before this third and final match against Curucao even kicked off. Osorio took this opportunity to further rotate his team and give some of the fringe players playing time.
Angel Sepulveda, who is not a natural striker, but has been filling in that role during this tournament scored the opening goal of the match in the 21st minute. Raul Lopez, who was seeing his first minutes of the tournament, dribbled down the tight wing and sent in a long cross to the other side of the field. Sepulveda ran onto the cross and headed the ball into the lower corner of the far post leaving the Curucao goalkeeper wrong-footed. Defender Edson Alvarez scored his first ever National Team goal in stoppage time to seal the win for El Tri.
The goal settled Mexcio into the game. Curucao had started the game off strong and caused plenty of trouble for the Mexico defense. Goalkeeper Jesus Corona was required to make several key saves to keep the score 0-0.
Following the goal Mexico was able to take control of the match. Corona was still forced to make key saves to keep Mexico in the lead but Curucao did not have the same intensity as before the Mexico goal. Mexico had plenty of opportunities to make the score-line even bigger but the Curucao goalkeeper also came up with big saves to deny El Tri. It wasn’t until after the 90th minute mark that Mexico was finally able to find an insurance goal through young Club America defender Edson Alvarez who controlled the ball inside of the box and shot it past the charging goalkeeper.
Mexico will move on to Phoenix, AZ where next Thursday July 20th they’ll face Group A third place finishers Honduras at the University of Phoenix Stadium in the quarterfinal stage of the Gold Cup.