Guatemala players vie for the ball with Mexico’s Rogelio Funes Mori (11) during their Gold Cup match. Reuters
Two goals from Rogelio Funes Mori helped Mexico get their CONCACAF Gold Cup title defence back on track on Wednesday with a 3-0 victory over Guatemala at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, Texas.
Held to a goalless draw by Trinidad and Tobago in their tournament opener, Mexico bounced back on the same night that Group A rivals El Salvador became the first team into the quarter-finals with a 2-0 victory over Trinidad.
Argentina-born Monterrey striker Funes Mori in the 29th and 55th minutes, and Orbelin Pineda with a 79th-minute header, were plenty for Mexico, who will take on El Salvador on Sunday in a Group A showdown in the 16-nation championship for teams from North and Central America and the Caribbean.
It was a vindication for Funes Mori, the 30-year-old whose selection by Mexico manager Gerardo “Tata” Martino had sparked criticism from former coach Tuca Ferretti and legendary striker Luis Hernandez because of his Argentinian roots.
In a match delayed more than half an hour by a sudden thunderstorm, Funes Mori opened the scoring in spectacular style, falling on a long ball from Hector Herrera and eluding Guatemalan defender Kervin Garcia as he turned to bend a shot past goalkeeper Nicholas Hagen for Mexico’s first goal of the tournament.
Funes Mori struck again in the second half with a precise finish off a pass from Pineda -- who put the finishing touches on El Tri’s victory when he leapt to head home a cross from Luis Rodriguez.
Earlier in nearby Frisco, Texas, at the ground of Major League Soccer’s FC Dallas, goals from Jairo Henriquez and Walmer Martinez lifted El Salvador to a second straight victory to ensure they will move on from Group A.
Midfielder Henriquez opened the scoring on the half-hour mark with an outstanding solo effort, making a crisp turn and firing a shot from outside the area that skimmed the far post on its way into the net.
Trinidad and Tobago pressed for the equalizer in the second half but could not find it and a minute into second-half injury time Martinez sealed it when he slotted in a rebound.
Meanwhile, Qatar are left with mixed emotions after a back-and-forth 3-3 draw with Panama in their first ever match at the Concacaf Gold Cup.
The 2022 FIFA World Cup hosts opened Group D against Panama, a consistent participant in the tournament, and were in the lead on three different occasions. The Central Americans, however, would not be denied.
“The positive today is we scored three and the negative is when we conceded three. We always come into the game not to concede, hopefully to win, but that’s football,” said forward Mohammed Muntari in an exclusive postgame interview with Concacaf.com.
A first half tussle ended in a goalless draw at halftime. Muntari mentioned the halftime adjustments made by Qatar coach Felix Sanchez were among the factors that led to their three goals.
Despite splitting the points, the AFC Asian Cup champions felt their opening match was a good litmus test for what to expect in the rest of the tournament. Now, they are focused on building and gaining momentum.
“Sometimes you win, some you lose, but we are fortunate to come up with the points, we go back to work on it and come back strong for the next game,” said Muntari. “We’re always confident. We are the Asian champions, so we come here with a lot of confidence and we are glad that we showed today and hopefully we can share more in the next games.” Muntari entered Tuesday’s match in the 85th minute, subbed in for Almoez Ali. He is eager to join his fellow forwards among the goal scorers for his country after Ali, Akram Afif and Hassan Al-Haydos all picked up their first Gold Cup goal against Panama.
Off the field, the Qatar national team is not only enjoying the experience of playing in the biennial tournament, but also the proximity it gives them to play in front of their fans in the United States.
“It means everything,” said Muntari about the Qatari public in attendance for the match. “To have them here is really motivating and we appreciate it and hopefully they can come to the next one also.”