Mexico and Uruguay finally delivered a thrilling and emotionally filled soccer match that had been missing in the first two days of the Copa America Centenario when they squared off in Glendale, Arizona Sunday night.
As the teams walked out to the pitch for the match, the stadium was electric, and filled with something that had been missing from some of the earlier matches. Chants of “Mexico, Mexico, Mexico” filled the University of Phoenix Stadium. The energy was still high as the Mexican national anthem played. Moments later one of the oddest scenes of the day happened as music played for the Uruguay anthem, players stood around looking at each other. It turned out that they played the Chile national anthem instead of the Uruguay national anthem in a bizarre, disrespectful scene from those in charge. After a moment of silence for the great Muhammad Ali, the game finally got underway.
Mexico strikes early
Whether it was the pro-Mexican crowd, the early pressing of Mexico, or the anthem mix-up, Uruguay couldn’t have asked for a worse start to the match. Just four minutes in, Andres Guardado would collect the ball on the left-hand side and play a dangerous ball into the box which found its way into the back of the net. At first, it looked like it was headed in by Hector Herrera, but later would be shown that the ball bounced off defender Alvaro Pereira's head and into the net to give Mexico the early lead.
From there Mexico were the better team for the first half as they pressured Uruguay higher up the field and didn’t allow the Uruguay midfield to create and build any play.
Uruguay had their best chance midway through the first half when Edinson Cavani was able to get behind Hector Moreno. But, he failed to do anything with the 1v1 chance with Mexican keeper Alfredo Talavera as the Mexican keeper stood tall and blocked the shot.
While Mexico were able to dominate the ball and have it around the Uruguay box, they failed to create any other chances that really challenge Fernando Muslera in goal. Things got worse for Uruguay as midfielder Matias Vecino saw his second yellow card and got his marching orders leaving Uruguay down 1-0 and down a man at halftime.
A crazy second half
The first 25 minutes of the second half saw Uruguay look refreshed and put pressure on Mexico as La Celeste looked like the better team. They created dead ball and set piece chances that unsettled Mexico, who struggled to get out of their own half. A few nervy moments from Talavera in goal as well didn’t help Mexico. The game was turned on its head when Guardado fouled Egidio Arevalo Rios from behind. It looked like little more than a regular foul, but Guardado saw a second yellow and left both teams with 10 players.
The ensuing free kick saw Uruguay captain Diego Godin head home the goal to level the match at one and give the South American team all the momentum.
That was the first goal Mexico had allowed in over 800 minutes of play. To Mexico’s credit, instead of buckling they rebounded nicely and both teams went back and forth looking the game winner. In the 85th-minute it was 37-year-old Rafael Marquez who smashed home the game-winner from seven yards.
As Uruguay pushed for a tying goal, late in injury time Mexico left nothing to chance. Oas on the counter, Raul Jimenez flicked a ball to Hirving Lozano, who ran at goal instead of the corner. His cross was picked up by Jimenez and flicked on to the back post to Hector Herrera who was waiting to head home and make it 3-1. After the game, Uruguay swarmed the refs in protest of the last two Mexico goals even though neither looked to have much wrong with them.
Mexico faces Jamaica next in a rematch of the Gold Cup Final from last year with a chance to lock up a spot in the knockout round. Uruguay faces Venezuela next, needing a result to keep their Copa America hopes live.