INGLEWOOD, Calif. (AP) — Eight months and two coaches after Mexico crashed out of an embarrassing World Cup, most of the same players triumphantly raised the CONCACAF Gold Cup amid confetti and raucous cheers Sunday night.
El Tri has reversed its fortunes with stunning speed, and its winning goal at SoFi Stadium came on an end-to-end play that was every bit as dramatic.
Late substitute Santiago Giménez scored after an electrifying sprint in the 88th minute, and Mexico won the Gold Cup for the record ninth time with a 1-0 victory over Panama.
After Edson Álvarez slid to block Iván Anderson’s cross in the Mexico penalty area, Orbelín Pineda dribbled away and made a tremendous pass into the center circle. Giménez, the 22-year-old Feyenoord forward, dribbled past Harold Cummings and outraced Cummings and Fidel Escobar into the penalty area.
Giménez scuffed a bouncing left-foot shot over goalkeeper Orlando Mosquera for his fourth goal in 18 international appearances and his second of the tournament.
“It’s the biggest moment of my career,” Giménez said. “I just tried to get down the field quickly. We followed our principles throughout the game, and they worked perfectly. The result was great because there were a lot of competitive teams in this tournament.”
The goal by the Argentina-born Giménez, who came on only three minutes earlier, set off a frenzied celebration at a Southern California stadium packed with fans celebrating Mexico’s revival in this biennial CONCACAF tournament. After Mexico was eliminated in the group stage of the World Cup for the first time since 1978, El Tri rebounded with an excellent tournament under interim coach Jaime Lozano, who took over the beleaguered program only a month ago after a Nations League loss to the U.S.
“Today the environment was like being in a World Cup,” said Lozano, whose contract is only for this tournament. “It wasn’t like a Gold Cup. I felt I was dreaming after I saw a stadium like we saw today, and to provide people with the happiness we’ve seen. Again, the team gave everything. We knew that we were writing history, and you have to take these opportunities.”
Mexico, which allowed just two goals in its matches, has won this tournament more than all other nations combined. The U.S. has seven Gold Cup titles and Canada has one.