Mexico beats Panama in thrilling Gold Cup final

Updated: Jul 17, 2023, 01:17 am

Mexico players celebrate after beating Panama to win the Gold Cup.

Mexico players celebrate after beating Panama to win the Gold Cup.

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Santiago Giménez scored after an electrifying sprint in the 88th minute as Mexico won the CONCACAF Gold Cup for the record ninth time with a 1-0 victory over Panama on Sunday night.

After Edson Álvarez slid to block Iván Anderson’s cross in the Mexico penalty area, Orbelín Pineda dribbled away and made a perfect pass to the center circle. The 22-year-old Feyenoord forward dribbled past Harold Cummings and outraced Cummings and Fidel Escobar into the penalty area, where he tucked away a clever scuffed shot for his fourth goal in 18 international appearances.

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The goal by the Argentina-born Giménez set off a frenzied celebration at sold-out SoFi Stadium, which was packed with fans celebrating Mexico’s dramatic revival in this biennial Concacaf tournament.

“Today the atmosphere was like a World Cup, it wasn’t like a Gold Cup,” said interim coach Jaime Lozano after the win. “The truth is that it fills me with joy, with excitement.”

Mexico looked to have broken the deadlock in the 33rd minute but Henry Martin’s goal was disallowed for offside after a VAR review. It had another excellent opportunity just before the break but Panama keeper Orlando Mosquera denied them again.

Panama’s best chance came in the 87th minute but Edgar Barcenas’ long range shot sailed wide of goal. Minutes later Gimenez ended it.

Several months after Mexico crashed out of the World Cup with its worst performance in nearly half a century, El Tri rebounded with an excellent tournament under interim manager Lozano, who took over the beleaguered program only a month ago.

“I signed a contract for the Gold Cup, I believe that starting now I’m free [to sign with anyone],” Lozano said regarding his future with Mexico. “I don’t know if it’s in a few weeks or months, but a decision will need to be made, and from my part, whenever I can help the national team, I’m available.”

Mexico, which allowed just two goals through all its matches, has won this tournament more than all other nations combined. The U.S. has seven Gold Cup titles and Canada one. Panama came up short in its effort to win the Gold Cup for the first time.

Giménez’s late goal ended an unlikely Gold Cup run by Panama, which upset the U.S. in the semifinals to earn its third appearance in the final. Los Canaleros couldn’t get several solid scoring chances past veteran Mexican goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa.

Lozano, who coached Mexico’s Olympic team to a bronze medal in Tokyo two years ago, was hired to lead the Gold Cup campaign by Juan Carlos Rodríguez, who took over as Mexican Football Federation president only a month earlier.

While the Gold Cup is notorious for featuring half-strength national teams, Mexico began the final with eight starters who also started at the World Cup and it showed with 14 first-half shots before finally finding the back of the net for the win.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this story.