Gold Cup: Mexico put on a masterclass in Group A finale
CHICAGO – Mexico turned what many thought would be the best game of the CONCACAF Gold Cup’s group stage into an absolute classic Sunday night, thrashing Costa Rica 4-1 in the Group A finale in front of a pro-Mexico crowd of 62,000 at Soldier Field.
El Tri turned in a virtuoso performance against former coach Ricardo La Volpe, getting a brace from Andres Guardado and a goal apiece from Rafa Márquez and Pablo Barrera to win Group A. Mexico will play the third-place team from Group B or C in the quarterfinals on Saturday at New Meadowlands Stadium.
Costa Rica barely held on to Group A’s second-place spot. The Ticos finished with four points, two goals ahead of third-place El Salvador on goal difference. They’ll join Mexico at New Meadowlands Stadium, where they’ll play the Group B runners-up Saturday.
Marquez put Mexico up 1-0 in the 17th minute. The New York Red Bulls defender got on the end of Pablo Barrera’s curling corner kick, beating Costa Rica’s Celso Borges to the ball before powerfully heading home from eight yards.
Guardado doubled El Tri’s lead with a spectacular goal in the 19th minute. Midfielder Israel Castro switched to him in the top left corner of the box and Guardado did the rest, beautifully curling a left footed volley into the upper right corner with his first touch.
Guardado made it 3-0 in the 26th. He collected a loose ball on the left flank, dribbling into the box before beating goalkeeper Keylor Navas at the near post with an eight yard screamer.
Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez should’ve opened his account in the 30th. Mexico won a ball in the final third and launched a counter, finding dos Santos for a three-on-two break. Dos Santos switched to a wide open Chicharito on the right flank, but he failed to finish for the second time, hitting his low 8-yarder right at Navas.
Barrera made it 4-0 in the 38th after he collected a Salcido switch in the top right corner of the box, took a touch and fired, hitting his low right footer inside the far post from 15 yards.
Dos Santos came incredibly close to adding a fifth in both the 62nd and 65th minutes. He cut in from the right wing and shot with his left foot on both opportunities, firing the first off the crossbar and forcing Navas into an acrobatic aerial save on the second.
Marco Urena pulled one back for Costa Rica in the 69th, collecting a ball on the right side of the box before firing a 15 yard shot across the face of goal and inside the far post. But the goal was nothing more than consolation for the Ticos, who stayed on their back foot for most of the remaining 20 minutes.
MEX – Marquez 17’
MEX – Guardado 19’
MEX – Guardado 26’
MEX – Barrera 38’
CR – Urena 69’
México; 12. Alfredo Talavera, 16. Efraín Juárez, 15. Héctor Moreno, 4. Rafael Márquez (20. Jorge Torres Nilo 70’), 3. Carlos Salcido, 7. Pablo Barrera (11. Ángel Reyna 62’), 6. Gerardo Torrado, 8. Israel Castro, 18. Andrés Guardado, 10. Giovani Dos Santos, 14. Javier Hernández (9. Aldo De Nigris 84’)
Subs not used: 13. Jesús Zavala, 22. Elías Hernández
Costa Rica: 1. Keylor Navas, 4. José Salvatierra, 3. Johnny Acosta, 20. Dennis Marshall, 6. Heiner Mora, (19. Oscar Duarte 46’), 24. Allen Guevara (16. Marco Urena 46’), 5. Celso Borgess, 15. Junior Díaz (11. Diego Madrigal 85’), 7. Cristian Bolaños, 9. Álvaro Saborío, 10. Bryan Ruiz
Subs not used: 8. David Guzmán, 12. Joel Campbell, 18. Donny Grant, 21. Randall Brenes