Mexico arrived at kickoff with a healthy squad looking like a favorite to not only beat 15 time Copa America champions Uruguay, but to win their first ever Copa America cup. El Tri entered the competition with high expectations, and the Mexican National fans came out in high numbers to support their team.
El Tri is the hottest club in the Americas as the team is being considered one of the best Mexico has ever fielded. Copa America is filled with some talented squads, but international stars like Uruguay’s Luis Suarez and Brazil’s Neymar are currently nursing injuries that are keeping them out of the tournament for now. Even Argentina’s star Lionel Messi is banged up, sustaining a back injury suffered during a friendly against Honduras. With so many injuries to key players, the stars appear as if they are aligning for the Mexican National team to lift the trophy for the first time.
Mexico has finished runners-up twice in the tournament, once in 1993 (lost to Argentina) and again in 2001 (defeated by Colombia). El Tri, however, is unbeaten in their last 19 matches and has won every match they’ve played since October. Oh, and don’t forget, Mexico captured the Gold Cup in a 3-2 win over rival USA. With so much momentum headed into the game against Uruguay, it’s easy to see how Mexico fans filled 95% University of Phoenix Stadium.
Edinson Cavani had a prime chance of getting Uruguay’s first goal in the 29th minute when he made a run out wide, but Mexican goalkeeper Alfredo Talavera made a miraculous save to deny the Paris Saint-Germain forward.
The first half was a physical one for the two teams—as each squad earned a yellow card before the 30th minute—Mexico’s Andres Guardado in the 25th minute and then Uruguay’s Matias Vecino in the 27th. Despite the officials quickly issuing the cards for the rough play, neither team backed down as bodies continued to hit the ground. With just a minute before the first-half ended, Vecino was booked with a red card and sent off.
Being a player down for an entire half seemed to be too much for Uruguay to overcome, especially without their star striker Suarez. Uruguay, however, came out at the half with a lot of energy and pressured the Mexican defenders often out of the gate. An opportune moment appeared at about the 58th minute when Uruguay made a run that had the Mexican defenders on their heels, the kick, however, was poor and went wide at the net.
El Tri had dominated most of the game, but the momentum took a turn in the 73rd minute when Guardado was given a red card—giving away the one man advantage his squad had. Revitalized, Uruguay quickly tied the game when Diego Godin headed a ball into the back of the net that ended Mexico’s scoreless streak at 804 minutes.
Mexico’s international star Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez was fairly quiet for the majority of the game, but did make a few impressive runs at the net. Although Hernandez is a high profile scorer, coach Juan Carlos Osorio subbed his star player out at the 83rd minute.
This, however, did not hurt Mexico as 37-year-old Rafael Marquez put El Tri back on top in the 85th minute. Mexico did not stop there as Herrera sealed the win with another goal in extra time. The Final: 3-1 Mexico.
In the end, the game saw a total of 4 yellow cards (Uruguay 3, Mexico 1) and 2 red cards (each team with one), and Uruguay did not shy away from letting the officials know about their displeasure as a group of players were seen yelling vehemently in the face of head referee Enrique Caceres. In all, the game saw a total of 33 fouls—16 for Mexico and 17 for Uruguay.
Mexico dominated the possession game by having the ball a total of 61% of the time. El Tri also had a total of 18 shots with 7 of those on goal. Uruguay found it difficult to pressure Mexico consistently has they managed to have 10 shots with only 3 of them on goal.
With the win, Mexico extends their win streak to 10, their unbeaten streak to 20, and now have control over first place in Group C. Mexico will have a few days to rest and get ready to take on Jamaica in Pasadena on June 9th. Uruguay will have to take a long flight to Philadelphia to play Venezuela on the same day.