The Quarterfinals are done and only four countries remain in the fight to be named champion of their region. Even though we didn’t get any surprise results, we did have some surprises in the games themselves. Mexico finally played in a tight game against Guatemala. Honduras had to triumph against a discouraged Costa Rica in penalty shots. The United States finally woke up from their slumber and beat up Jamaica. Finally, El Salvador got so close to pulling off the upset, but Panama scored at the end, and then won in penalties. Let’s get a closer look at the action and preview Wednesday night’s match-ups too.
Mexico started on fire with a couple of chances but quickly found themselves behind thanks to Carlos Ruiz.
After the goal Guatemala tried to play behind the ball and go on the counter, and since Mexico made quite a few mistakes they made this a tough game for them. It didn’t keep Mexico from bombarding Guatemala’s goal however. The goal Antonio De Negris scores around the 40th minute (2nd goal in the youtube clip) epitomizes what Mexico was doing most of the first half trying any way possible to put the ball in the net. Guatemala defended well and made Mexico work on the counter, but once the goal went in, the game changed for the 2nd half.
Guatemala now tried to just hold on for the tie but they couldn’t stop Mexico from continuing to come forward and it was only a matter of time before it happened. Of course, who else was going to score the goal other than “Chicarito” Javier Hernandez (last goal in youtube clip,) and what a pretty goal it was at that. After they went ahead Mexico kept trying to get another just to kill the game off and Guatemala didn’t really get even close after that. The better team won and if you are going to play “defend and counter” you have to have your defending boots on, and Guatemala did at certain moments and in others they looked bad.
Mexico looked good for the most part, except Guatemala exposed a weakness, that since they go all out on the attack (and they should they have the players to do it) they can be had on the counter-attack. Mexico needs to be a bit more cautious in their next game because Honduras is more of a well rounded team that don’t just rely on one guy to score. Honduras has to very capable strikers and wingers that have no problem shooting from long distance. Honduras has also defended well in this tournament and this will be the first team Mexico has faced that will give them a challenge. By the same token Honduras hasn’t faced the likes of Javier Hernandez and the multiple attacking looks, they also have Gerrardo Torrado who eats up a lot of the midfield sitting in front of the defense.
Honduras looked to score early and in the second half their quick attack paid off as Jerry Bengston takes a nice little pass and slots it home into the open net.
Costa Rica were on the back foot the whole first half as they didn’t register anything on target. Honduras played great on all ends and were just able to find all the open spots for passes and to get going towards goal. However, they really should have made the best of their chances as they found themselves only up by one goal at half-time. Costa Rica then took their chances at goal and finally on a corner kick defender Dennis Marshall delivered a nasty downward header that went over the goalkeeper and into the net. The scored would remain this way until the end of the game and extra-time period thanks to Alvaro Saborio missing a penalty during regular time that could have sealed the game for Costa Rica. Honduras almost ended the game during regular time too but the shot was blocked. There wasn’t much that happened in the extra-time period as both teams seemed to be playing for penalty shots. Penalty shots is where Honduras showed their toughness and Costa Rica wilted. Costa Rica missed two penalties by hitting the woodwork and Honduras made all of there’s. Here is the penalty shot ordeal in full…
Honduras advances to play Mexico in the semi-finals. They will be at a disadvantage from the start as Mexico will have homefield advantage because the game is being played in Houston, Texas. It will be interesting to see if Mexico plays this game differently than they have all the other games because if they don’t, Honduras could expose them. I expect this to be hard fought game but Mexico should come out on top. When it comes to the Gold Cup it’s almost a given that either the United States or Mexico will be in the final, or both of them facing each other. If there is a team that can give them a test, it is Honduras. History has been a key story in this Gold Cup and these two teams have only played each other twice in the Gold Cup. It’s actually a little funny that it was only at the first Gold Cup and in 2007. They were both group games, it was a draw in 1991 and a 2-1 win for Honduras in 2007, in the 90th minute with a goal by Carlos Costly. Costly is still playing for Honduras and you wonder if he could pull another wonder goal out of nowhere, and this time it means a lot more.
The United States came out the ultimate aggressors against Jamaica and never let up the entire game. This is how they should play against lesser opposition especially if you have the defense to back it up. The USA also played most of the game without Landon Donavan but it was okay because Clint Dempsey, Sascha Klejstan, and Alejandro Bedoya picked up the tab. Jozy Altidore looked lively in the first few minutes but in the 8th he came up injured and had to be substituted for Juan Agudelo. Jamaica actually had quite a few opportunities, especially before the first goal went through, to score and they couldn’t convert thanks to Tim Howard. Jermaine Jones eventually came up with the crazy goal off a deflection to make it 1-0.
After the goal, the task just seemed too great for Jamaica, team USA stepped up their defense and thwarted much of what they tried to do. Jamaica also decided not to change their game until 20 minutes into the second half. After Bob Bradley put in Landon Donavan, the game just became USA’s total domination. Clint Dempsey put a stamp on the game in the 80th minute to end Jamaica’s hopes of a comeback. A lot of players played a whole lot better than they have in this entire tournament and it was about time too. Jamaica had a great tournament for them and Dane Richards and Ryan Johnson were standouts on a team that has played better than I’ve seen Jamaica play in a long time. So now the USA have a rematch with Panama again.
Panama played their normal game where they didn’t dominate but made sure they were in it until the end. Panama actually seemed confused, not expecting El Salvador to come at them so aggressively as they did. The referee gave a penalty to El Salvador unjustly in the first half, but Jaime Penedo blocked it and the score remained 0-0. Eventually El Salvador would score on another penalty decision in the second half that was justly awarded, it took all that for Panama to finally put their thinking caps on and start going forward with more authority. However, El Salvador continued to keep them at bay until almost the last kick of the ball. In the 90th minute in another dead ball situation, Panama scores on a last minute scrappy play to tie the game. It almost seemed unfair the way they had played the entire game for them to stay alive in the Gold Cup but they did. You could almost feel like the momentum had just switched completely to one side now. The teams wound up in a penalty shootout and that momentum was apparent with the first kick of the ball for El Salvador.
As El Salvador had their first penalty stopped by Jamie Penedo and it set the stage for Panama to make all of theirs to advance to the next round. They will have to defeat the United States again to advance to the final. Can they beat them twice in one tournament? I don’t think so, especially because their first loss ever in the group stage ironically to Panama seemed to wake them up.
Any thoughts the US had of walking through left the building after the loss. So expect these two to have a chippy game that may go long too. At least I hope it winds up better than the only other time these two have met in the Gold Cup is 2005 in the Final. The game ended up 0-0 with the USA winning in penalties to win their third Gold Cup Championship. This is a seven years later let’s see what happens.