This summer’s Copa America needed a game to give the tournament a spark. In the five games of the tournament there were only four goals scored, including two nil-nil draws and no games where both teams scored. Some of the matches were played in very empty seats, and to be honest, Copa America Centenario had just failed to get out of first gear. To add to the misery, CONCACAF teams had looked terrible against CONMEBOL teams, losing the first three matchups of North American soccer against South American soccer. CONCACAF teams had failed to score a goal yet managed to grab two red cards.
Finally, the Sunday night matchup between Mexico and Uruguay was played and the game had everything that the others didn’t. This match oozed high intensity, some chippy play, some moments of pure quality, and two teams trying desperately to win the match.
Before the game, things started off in a weird fashion as the teams waited for the national anthems; Uruguay stood awkwardly because instead of their anthem it was the Chile anthem that was played.
It was a dream start for Mexico as only four minutes in captain Rafael Marquez played a long ball that found Andres Guardado on the left flank. The one they call “El Principito” (Little Prince) placed a ball into the box and saw Hector Herrera come crashing to find the ball at the back of the net. While it looked like Herrera had scored, the ball actually was put in by defender Alvaro Pereira for an own goal.
What allowed the goal to happen was that once Guardado received the ball, Javier Hernandez made a run to the near post, which forced Diego Godin to follow him and allowed the space behind him for Herrera to come in and be enough of a nuisance that Pereira couldn’t do anything in the goal.
For the majority of the first half it was Mexico who were the better team. Their quick passing and ball movement frustrated Uruguay. They played with three defenders and Hernandez up top so they really spread Uruguay thin across the middle, which allowed them to move the ball from side to side and create one on one chances for their creative playmakers.
A major factor in the first half was also how the teams pressured, with Mexico pressing high and forcing Uruguay to play long balls they might not have wanted to play. Meanwhile, Uruguay backed off and didn’t force Mexico into any bad passes, allowing 37-year-old Rafael Marquez to control the pace of Mexico’s attack. While at his age he doesn’t have the speed or quickness anymore, Marquez’s passing was one of the biggest factors that made him into a world class player in his time with Barcelona.
Things got even worse for Uruguay as right before half time they were reduced to 10 men. Matias Vecino picked up his second yellow when he kicked Jesus Corona, who was a step quicker in getting a ball.
Yet in the second half, Uruguay started to press higher and create dead ball chances near the Mexican goal, undoubtedly one of the best ways to get into the game down a man. It wasn’t until the 73rd minute when Guardado was called for a foul that the ref waited a bit long to pull out the yellow, which was his second. Really an odd call but one that left both teams with 10 men. With both teams playing with 10, Godin quickly smashed home the cross and left everything even at 1-1.
Just as credit must be given to Uruguay for bouncing back at the start in the first half down a man, credit has to be given to Mexico. Past Mexican teams would crumble under the pressure, but this team instead got back on the front foot and we were left with 15 minutes of back and forth action from both teams. The coaches helped as both made their final subs attacking ones as they tried to seal all three points.
With only five minutes left, off a short corner, substitute Hirving Lozano played a ball on the ground into the middle that Marquez first miss-touched. However, a defensive deflection would land right in front of him, and the former Barcelona man would smash the ball into the upper near post corner and send the people inside the stadium into bedlam.
As Uruguay pressed forward, in the 93rd minute a counterattack that saw Raul Jimenez flick the ball to Lozano, who whipped the ball on the ground and into the corner, found Jimenez again. He flicked the ball along to Hector Moreno, who was waiting alone in the back post to head the ball into the goal and give Mexico a 3-1 victory.
After the whistle, the Uruguay players swarmed the refs, an act that could potentially lead to future consequences for the team.
Uruguay now face Venezuela on Wednesday with their backs against the wall in a game where they absolutely need a good result. As for Mexico, the three points give them a great chance of topping Group C and the possibility of avoiding Argentina in the knockout round. While the goal conceded ends Mexico’s clean sheet streak of eight matches and over 800 minutes, the win gives them their 10th straight victory and their 20th game without tasting defeat.