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Mexico into Gold Cup semifinals with penalty shootout win over Costa Rica

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The game lacked flow, at times lacked quality, and certainly lacked grace, but Guillermo Ochoa produced his own brilliant signature moment when it mattered to send Mexico to the Gold Cup semifinals with a 5-4 penalty shootout victory over Costa Rica after a 1-1 draw.

A game that featured 46 fouls and 12 yellow cards was ended abruptly as Ochoa guessed correctly on Keysher Fuller’s penalty, diving down low to his right and extending his right arm fully to reach the effort and palm it away to seal victory, peeling away in jubilant celebration.

The game was choppy until just before halftime when Mexico went in front on a 41st minute turn-and-shoot from Raul Jimenez whose initial shot was stonewalled by Oscar Duarte but he stuck with it and fired Mexico in front.

Mexico’s lead wouldn’t last long after the break as Costa Rica pulled back level in the 52nd minute when Joel Campbell latched onto a long ball forward having broken between two defenders. On the charge forward, Luis Rodriguez clipped Campbell’s foot just as he went to shoot, and the referee pointed to the spot. Bryan Ruiz cooly buried his penalty with a soft poke left that saw Ochoa wrong-footed and brought Costa Rica even at 1-1.

Overall, the teams put together 37 shots but could only see 10 of them find the target. The fouling was the story of the match, and between all the cautions handed out even the coaches were given cards. Mexico was the more vicious attacking team looking to win the match in regulation, and Costa Rica goalkeeper Leonel Moreira was required to make a spectacular save in the 58th minute on a long-distance effort by Jimenez looking for his second. With just five minutes to go, Mexico again came close as they worked the ball into the box from the left flank and again Moreira was there to leap and tip a shot by Carlos Rodriguez off the crossbar and out.

Ochoa came alive in extra-time, first diving low to his left to stop a 108th minute Jonathan McDonald slicer before his penalty shootout heroics. Mexico went behind straight away as Jimenez’s poor effort was saved by Moreira on the very first penalty of the shootout. It stayed that way until at 2-2 Randall Leal ripped his spot-kick wide. That set up Ochoa for his moment with the score at 5-4 and Fuller at the spot, sending Mexico through and ripping out Costa Rica hearts.

Mexico will meet Haiti in the semifinals after the comeback victory against Canada continued Haiti’s dream run through this tournament. For Costa Rica, it becomes the third Gold Cup in their last four where they have been eliminated in the quarterfinal stage, a disappointing haul for a team with consistent World Cup aspirations.

FOLLOW LIVE, Gold Cup: Mexico takes on Costa Rica in highly-anticipated quarterfinal

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The Mexican National Team may think that the hard work is over until the final if it beats Costa Rica, but that will mean El Tri hasn’t been paying attention to Haiti.

For the third time at the Gold Cup, Haiti came back from a deficit to win, this time overcoming a two-goal deficit to beat Canada, 3-2, in the quarterfinals opener in Houston, Texas. Now both Mexico and Costa Rica will have Haiti on their minds ahead of their matchup.

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It’s been a strong Gold Cup for El Tri, starting with a 7-0 thrashing of Cuba and a 3-1 win over Cuba that featured Andres Guardado in vintage form. A 3-2 win over Martinique, which gave Mexico some problems late, could open the door for Costa Rica.

However, Los Ticos are coming in off a poor last game as well, in which they were outplayed and outrun by Haiti at Red Bull Arena, especially late in a 2-1 win for Haiti, in which it came back from being a goal down. Ultimately, this matchup is one that was expected in the semifinals, not as soon as the quarterfinals, meaning one of the favorites is heading home early.

Costa Rica is at the end of a cycle of star players while El Tri is trying out some young guns, like Edson Alvarez and LA Galaxy winger Uriel Antuna. It will be interesting to see if the veteran poise of Costa Rica overcomes the young talent of El Tri.

Hit the link above to follow along for the next few hours and check back on PST for a full roundup of Saturday’s action

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Haiti stuns Costa Rica to claim Group B at Gold Cup

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Poetic justice, put it in a Song.

Haiti’s Djimy Alexis made up for his early own goal by scoring a deserved winner as Haiti won Group B of the Gold Cup with an upset of Costa Rica on Monday.

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Los Ticos got everything they could handle from the upstart Gombey Warriors, who are now 3-0 on the tournament, and the World Cup mainstays tossed aside their early lead to meet Mexico in the quarterfinals.

Haiti will challenge Canada in the quarters, guaranteeing the semifinals an intriguing participant.

An early own goal had Costa Rica in control, but Duckens Nason’ 16th international goal was a part of a hard charge from the Haitians in the second half.

The other match saw Bermuda earn a 2-0 win over Nicaragua via goals from Lejuan Simmons and QPR’s Nakhi Wells. That gives the Gombey Warriors a 1-2 record while dropping Nicaragua to 0-3.

Bermuda was ranked 174th by FIFA to Nicaragua’s 129, but that will certainly change next month.

FOLLOW LIVE, Gold Cup: Costa Rica, Haiti look to put off Mexico date

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With all due respect to the Canadians, Monday’s Gold Cup Group B decider between Costa Rica and Haiti is a big, big deal for the CONCACAF sides’ semifinal hopes.

If Costa Rica draws or wins, it will meet Canada in the next round while Haiti would draw Mexico in Houston.

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Los Ticos have six different goal scorers, while half of Haiti’s goals have come from former NCAA scorer Frantzdy Pierrot.

The evening starts with Bermuda and Nicaragua meeting in Harrison, and the match with carry weight for FIFA rankings. Bermuda has lost both of its matches 2-1, while Nicaragua has been blanked 2-0 and 4-0.

Monday’s Gold Cup schedule
Bermuda v. Nicaragua — 6:30 p.m. ET
Haiti v. Costa Rica — 9 p.m. ET

Hit the link above to follow along for the next few hours and check back on PST for a full roundup of Sunday’s action

Costa Rica downs pesky Bermuda 2-1 in Gold Cup

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A hot night in Frisco, Texas saw Costa Rica deal with a pesky but wasteful Bermuda side and secure passage to the Gold Cup knockout stage with a 2-1 win on goals bracketing halftime. Jerseys were soaked through with sweat after just 20 minutes, and the minnows were up to the task but couldn’t finish off their chances and were punished on the other end.

Costa Rica remained in the majority of possession throughout but Bermunda continued to disrupt their early flow, holding the favorites to just one total shot through the first 25 minutes. Bermuda, meanwhile, had a few great opportunities in the opening minutes. They had an early chance on the counter just two minutes in, but Nahki Wells scuffed his shot wide after the Costa Rica defense somehow whiffed on stopping the through ball. Reggie Lambe found himself on the doorstep in the 19th minute after a Wells shot from outside the top of the box was blocked right to Lambe’s feet, but he took too long to get a shot off and put it into Leonel Moreira’s breadbasket.

Costa Rica had its first chance in the 27th minute as Allan Cruz rose high and got his head to an Elias Aguilar cross from deep in the corner, but the effort was right at Bermuda shot-stopper Dale Eve. Bermuda was lucky to keep 11 players on the pitch on the half-hour mark after an ugly tackle by Jaylon Bather who went studs-up high onto the lower leg of Bryan Oviedo. They broke through on a subsequent corner as Mayron George headed home at the back post.

Oscar Duarte came close to a second with another header off a corner 10 minutes later, but he put it just over the bar. Eve was required again just before halftime as he flew through the air to keep out a Celso Borges free-kick effort destined for the top corner. After the break, Costa Rica was bright and found a second as Elias Aguilar bagged his second of the tournament on a simple shot from left side of the box.

Bermuda woke up after the second Costa Rica goal, and a Donte Brangman scorcher from distance forced a save of Moreira on 57 minutes. On the ensuing corner, Borges tripped Jalen Harvey and a penalty was awarded, which Wells blasted down the middle to get Bermuda on the board. Zeiko Lewis had a glorious opportunity to draw level as Lambe fed him through on goal but he couldn’t settle properly and the chance disappeared.

Costa Rica controlled the ball as the game wound down and while Bermuda tested them in spells, they never truly had what it took to equalize. They came closest in the 89th minute on a turn-and-shoot from Wells but he put it wide right. Somehow, Costa Rica failed to find a third with the final kick of the game as George saw his breakaway shot saved by Eve and his follow-up on the doorstep blasted off the underside of the crossbar.

The win for Costa Rica secures a spot in the knockout round, while Bermuda is officially eliminated with no points from their first two games. Nicaragua is also eliminated with the result, and Costa Rica will take on Haiti to determine the group winner in the final match of Group B play on Monday.