Mexico secure record 8th Gold Cup in Martino debut

CHICAGO - Mexico coach Gerardo Martino holds the Gold Cup trophy after El Tri defeated Team USA at Soldier Field. (Photo by Omar Vega/Getty Images)
CHICAGO - Mexico coach Gerardo Martino holds the Gold Cup trophy after El Tri defeated Team USA at Soldier Field. (Photo by Omar Vega/Getty Images) /

Jonathan dos Santos’ 73rd-minute game-winner was the difference as Mexico beat Team USA to win the 2019 Gold Cup.

In what has been an interesting Gold Cup run for Mexico, coach “Tata” Martino will simply be happy with securing his first international trophy for Mexico despite entering the tournament as heavy favorites.

After breezing past Cuba and Canada in the first two games, scoring a combined 10 goals and conceding just 1, Mexico looked set to have a comfortable run to the final.

That is until tiny Martinique proved to almost be a banana skin, scoring twice in an unlikely 3-2 thriller. Costa Rica proved to be even more tougher than anticipated with Mexico just barely scraping past them following an extremely nerve wracking penalty shootout.

Even lowly Haiti proved to be a very unlikely test for Martino’s side, who barely managed to win the game following a Raul Jimenez won, and taken, penalty in extra time.

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The final, however, is a one-off game in which form generally goes out the window and both teams put everything into winning. Add the spicy mix of a local rivalry, especially one as heated as Mexico and the U.S. with all its unfortunate political undertones, this final was quite literally the perfect outcome for fans, neutral or otherwise.

Despite some early chance for both sides, and despite the hype, the first half was a fairly tame affair, with both sides saving energy for a hectic final 45 minutes.

The second half had everything, a goal line clearance, a back-heeled assist and a blockbuster of a game-winning goal scored by the younger brother of the player who scored one of the most memorable Gold Cup goals in Team Mexico history (also against the United States in a Gold Cup final).

The coach and players won’t care how it was won, only that they won. This was a big and controversial summer for El Tri as a whole host of veteran starters turned down the chance to play in this tournament, for a variety of reasons. The veterans who were there, goalie Memo Ochoa and skipper Andres Guardado  in particular, served as vocal leaders, saying time and again in public that they were hungry and proud to wear the jersey and win the cup.

Younger players such as Uriel Antuna, Rodolfo Pizarro and Roberto Alvarado proved that they belong, and deserve to at least be in and around the first 11 for any Mexico game. Antuna and Pizarro had terrific tournaments as front-line mates with star striker Raul Jimenez.

Tata will enjoy this moment for the coming weeks, but we all know that work toward the 2022 World Cup will begin in earnest soon and he will look to mend fences with some of the missing veterans such as “Chicharito” Hernandez, Hector Herrera and, especially, “Tecatito” Corona.