Gold Cup Nightly: Group C, Matchday Two
Photo from CONCACAF.com
Gary Stempel’s job as Panama Coach was very much on the line. The Panamanians have done very well in the last two Gold Cups but lost their opener to Guadeloupe and now face mighty Mexico. Javier Aguirre has already found himself under fire despite his outstanding club record in Spain after several lackluster performances to start his second tenure with El Tri.
So beleugured managers and a huge crowd at Reliant made it a tense affair.
El Tri playing with what we can call a B+ team (a number of young players but Gerrado Torrado and Gio Dos Santos are regulars, and Jonny Magallon plays often for the first team also) absorbed some Panamanian pressure early and scored on a fantastic counter attacking goal. Gio Dos Santos found Miguel Sabah for a clean finish to give Mexico an early lead.
But as has been the case in Mexico’s decline since Ricardo LaVolpe was sacked, El Tri couldn’t simply overwhelm an inferior Central American opponent. Panama continued to create chances and scored a great goal in the 29th minute.
But then the match turned chippy. Panama and Mexico both had players sent off in first half stoppage time and in the second half things really came undone. Ricardo Phillips entered the game in the 76th minute for Panama and was sent off in minute 80. Phillips was sent off for shoving a Mexican coach after he had been hit by none other than Javier Aguirre.
FIFA has suspended managers for far less in the past and should Aguirre be on the sidelines anytime soon for El Tri, then we know justice has not been done.
The match itself was very exciting after it became 10 v 10 but the tomorrow’s papers in Mexico will be full of scorn for the officials because they “cheated” Mexico out of stoppage time. If anything, the officials who lost control of the match and allowed several Mexican players who persistently fouled to not be placed in the book helped El Tri.
Of more significance is the continued struggles of Mexico against respectable Central American opposition. Once upon a time Mexico would have nothing to fear from Panama, Guatemala, Honduras, etc. But these days more often than not El Tri struggles for results even against the lower tier of Central America, surely a worrying sign in Mexico.
As is the case in any match against regional opposition, El Tri’s players behave in unsportsmanlike fashion and show little respect for the match officials. Now with the coaches joining that parade, CONCACAF needs to reign in Mexico before chaos ensues at every match involving El Tri.
Guadeloupe 2-0 Nicaragua
Guadeloupe’s fantastic Gold Cup record was put to the test against tournament newbie Nicaragua. The Central Americans looked formidable in the first half against Mexico before conceding a late, highly controversial penalty. But today Nicaragua was badly outplayed for the majority of the match.
Even after Michael Tacalfred 67th minute sending off, Guadeloupe’s ten men looked superior. But the Caribbean Islanders have struggled to convert the bulk of their chances in this tournament into goals and while they do have six points and are assured of passage to the knock out stages, their play in the final third must improve.
Roger Salnot must know that despite winning both games, Guadeloupe is not yet firing on all cylinders. This team has the talent to compete with anyone in CONCACAF except for possibly the USA. But they must improve their play in the final third to fulfill their potential in this tournament.
For Nicaragua, qualification itself was major accomplishment and while they have dropped both matches in this tournament, they have fought hard and demonstrated that Nicaraguan football is on the upswing.