It wasn’t pretty, and it wasn’t by the widest of margins, but Mexico did just enough to get by Curacao, the tiny island nation of roughly 160,000 people, in their Group C finale at the 2017 Gold Cup.
The victory means El Tri finish top of the group, two points clear of second-place Jamaica, and will face Honduras, the third-place finishers in Group A, in the quarterfinals on Thursday.
Mexico’s opening goal wouldn’t take long to arrive, just 22 minutes, as Angel Sepulveda headed Raul Lopez’s lofted cross home from a very difficult, tight angle.
[ REACP: USA beats Nicaragua, 3-0 ]
The second goal would prove far tougher for Mexico, though. In truth, a Curacao equalizer looked a far more likely prospect for much of the following 70 minutes. Jesus Corona made a pair of stunning saves early in the second half to keep the score at 1-0, and even got an assist from the crossbar not long after the hour mark.
The final 15 minutes saw Mexico turn up the pressure and create a pair of golden scoring chances — the first of which was saved one-on-one in the open field; the second of which Eloy Room spectacularly pushed the ball onto the crossbar. The insurance was secured, at long last, in the 91st minute, courtesy of Edson Alvarez cool finish from 12 yards out.
On the whole of 90 minutes, Curacao would hold their own against Mexico, just about matching the CONCACAF giant all night long, despite enjoying just 36 percent of possession. Mexico are expected to make zero changes to their roster before the start of the knockout rounds, thus much improvement is required