Breathless, frenetic, utterly absorbing: Mexico was a 4-2 winner in the Gold Cup final, a score line that didn't seem quite to reflect its superiority, yet so open was the game that the U.S. had enough chances to have itself won the game by a two-goal margin. This was thrillingly end-to-end, a game in which midfields barely existed, settled by the porousness of the USA's back four. In the end, it simply presented too many chances to Mexico.
Mexico will open the World Cup against South Africa on June 11 in its most important game in four years, and each match El Tricolor goes on to play in the tournament will only increase in significance.
In its most trying year since 2001, Mexico survived and came out stronger at the end because of it. By the midway point of the CONCACAF Hexagonal, El Tri had lost three World Cup qualifiers and fired its coach as panic was entrenched in the country. But Mexico went 4-0-1 down the stretch and wound up qualifying with relative ease after all was said and done.
Mexico is back, or so the Hexagonal table says. El Tri needs just one win to get into South Africa 2010 and complete its remarkable comeback. A win over El Salvador on Saturday (6 p.m. ET, Telemundo), combined with other results, could catapult Mexico into first place, and it could remain there until the final round of CONCACAF qualifying ends on Oct. 14.
MEXICO CITY -- The CONCACAF Gold Cup is long over, and Mexico's 5-0 drubbing of the U.S. last month was left in the past well before the two teams met again here in Wednesday's World Cup qualifier. But the tournament's impact not only has steered the U.S.-Mexico rivalry in a different direction, it also has seemed to awaken the Mexican national team.
For the once-heralded future star of CONCACAF, the 2009 Gold Cup is yet another opportunity to display his talents. On his third club now and just barely after his 20th birthday, the sensation who once had his fans salivating at the prospect of a dazzling, skilled player pulling the strings of the national team is now trying to fulfill his promise despite playing in relative obscurity.
Somewhere, Hugo Sánchez is smiling. The former Mexican national-team coach probably isn't enthused watching El Tricolor in its current beleaguered state. But Sánchez, now in charge of Spanish side Almería, can rest assured over one thing: The problems with El Tri run deeper than the coach.
With no tournaments in the near future to prepare for, Mexico coach Hugo Sánchez has entered the next phase of his World Cup cycle. The Gold Cup and the Copa América are in the past, and the task of building depth and providing players opportunities against top-notch competition is now the focus.