GLENDALE – The CONCACAF Gold Cup tournament came to Phoenix last Thursday in a doubleheader at State Farm Stadium featuring Mexico, Haiti, Qatar and Honduras.
Coming out of the matches, Mexico still appeared to be in the honeymoon phase with interim coach Jaime Lozano after its second consecutive win in the tournament under his leadership. The period was short-lived, however, as Mexico lost its final group stage game to Qatar to the ire of fans.
The team now finds itself in purgatory. Videos and images shared on social media showed multiple fights and acts of violence in the stands during the team’s 1-0 loss. Going into the match and tournament, Mexico carried an immense amount of pressure as it recently lost the Nations League Final to the international soccer rival United States 3-0. Despite the result, which did not feature Lozano’s typical lineup, Mexico played well in the first games of the tournament under his leadership. He even earned the nickname “LamborJimmy” from fans for his sleek, impressive start.
“To know each other personally and professionally has helped us a lot,” Lozano said of Mexico’s success in the first two games.
Mexico struggled in the first half against Haiti’s disciplined defense, allowing very few opportunities to score. Haiti also applied pressure on the counterattack to create solid chances to score but failed to fully take advantage.
Mexico struck fast with a score in the first minute of the second half from Henry Martin, who capitalized on winger Uriel Antuna’s cross into the box. The Mexico-friendly crowd rose in celebration as soon as the ball hit the back of the net, with drinks and food flying around the arena.
Exactly 10 minutes later, Mexican fullback Jesus Gallardo put in a cross that deflected off Haitian defender Ricardo Ade for a 2-0 lead. Haiti put some pressure on Mexico in the 78th minute when Haitian midfielder Danley Jean Jacques scored a header off a corner kick, but Mexico put the game away in the 85th minute with a goal from Santiago Giminez on Antuna’s pass.
“In my experience with Uriel Antuna, if you give him clarity he is capable of having these types of games,” Lozano said.
Not disappointed with how his team performed on the night, Haiti coach Gabriel Calderon showed confidence and pride in his team’s effort but Haiti’s loss to Honduras led to elimination on the final day of group play.
Meanwhile, the first match of the doubleheader kept spectators in their seats as Qatar took an early lead in just the seventh minute of the match with forward Tameem Al-Abdullah’s opening goal. Honduras had little hope until the very last minute of the match when Honduran forward Alberth Ellis scored a game-tying and tournament-saving goal.
“I liked the perseverance and attitude of the group,” said Honduras manager Diego Vasquez, whose team was eliminated due to goal differential on the final day of group play. “We never stopped believing during the whole match and that is a positive.”
The drama continued after the match with a fight breaking out that required players to be separated. Qatar midfielder Yusuf Abdurisag and Honduran forward Rubilio Castillo were both shown red cards and received two-match suspensions. Vazquez refused to comment on the altercation but said there was a fight and he did not see anything.
Meanwhile, with their latest win, Qatar will now officially move on to play Panama in the quarterfinals Saturday at AT&T Stadium at 4 p.m. Mexico will advance to play Costa Rica on Saturday, July 8 at 6:30 p.m. at AT&T stadium.