CONCACAF 2015 U-20 Championship: Group B Round 3 round-up
Austin Fido takes a mid-tournament look at Group B of the CONCACAF U-20 Championship in Jamaica…
The mid-tournament round-up for Group A is over here, but this is about Group B: home of presumptive champions, Mexico, and five other teams that might be better than we’re giving them credit for since they’re all lining up to get thumped by El Tri.
As has become usual for these round-ups, the hyper-linked title of each match review takes you to official highlights. And at the end, you’ll find standings after three rounds and a fresh recommended player to watch out for on each team.
Group B: Round 3
Canada 2-3 El Salvador
In the sense that El Salvador should have wrapped this game up well before the last minute, three points was an entirely fair outcome for the Salvadorans and it was merely surprising it took them until the fourth minute of second-half stoppage-time to find a winner.
Prior to that, the teams traded highlight reel goals, and although El Salvador seemed to be the better team…
…Canada was never out of it.
The result is a huge boost for El Salvador, as it means points have been taken off both teams it might have been predicted would finish above La Selecta in the standings. Three more points from one of its next two games (Mexico – so probably not; Cuba – seems entirely probable) should see El Salvador through to the next round.
Canada will be expected to bounce back from this with a win over Cuba; but its fate in this competition would seem to rest on the outcome of the following match, against Honduras.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about this match was that El Tri was reduced to 10 men after Oscar Bernal was sent off for a sly off-the-ball kick to a grounded opponent…
…and Mexico still found a way to score and incorporate the incident into the ensuing celebration.
Hirving Lozano (of course) scored again.
Honduras had chances, but trouble connecting when it mattered.
Mexico marches on toward a seemingly inevitable Championship title. Honduras will have accounted for the possibility of losing to Mexico, but now needs to kick-start what has been a faltering effort so far.
Haiti will be heartbroken to have let three points slip to a stoppage-time equalizer, but it was in keeping with the pattern on a game that either team could have won but neither wanted to, apparently.
Chances were spurned at both ends, often when it seemed easier to score than miss.
But Haiti took the lead late in the game, and held it until almost the last possible minute.
The draw suits neither team, who sit a point apart at the bottom of the standings, looking equally unlikely to make it out of this group.
Group B Summary & Standings
1. Mexico: 9 pts; GF 14; GA 1; GD +13
El Tri is looking more and more like the champion of this year’s tournament. The two teams considered most likely to challenge Mexico’s presumptive dominance of Group B – Canada and Honduras – have already been swept aside. The upcoming fixture against El Salvador is a potential banana skin, but we have seen nothing so far to suggest El Tri is not up to the task of keeping itself on track for the final and the championship title.
Key Player: Erick Gutierrez
The star of Mexico’s U-20 show is Hirving Lozano, for whom the only obstacle to claiming the tournament’s Golden Boot is the possibility he gets rested once El Tri‘s qualification for the final is assured. But the objective of this section is put forward a new player to watch out for in this team, and Lozano’s praises were sung in the preview to this competition.
So keep an eye out for Erick Gutierrez, a teammate of Lozano’s at Pachuca, where they have both been regular starters in Liga MX this season, and for whom Gutierrez is currently the joint leading scorer in the club’s 2014-15 CONCACAF Champions League campaign.
2. El Salvador: 5 pts; GF 6; GA 5; GD + 1
If you are looking for a team to follow for the rest of the tournament, pick El Salvador – and don’t stop watching until the final whistle. Every game La Selecta Sub 20 has played so far has brought late drama: a two-goal-in-the-last-six-minutes comeback for a draw against Honduras; an 89th-minute penalty conceded to give Haiti a share of the points; and a stoppage-time winner against Canada.
This team’s apparent refusal to engage in anything but competitive, down-to-the-wire games makes watching football a lot of fun.
Key Player: Jose Villavicencio
Three of El Salvador’s six goals in this tournament have come from Villavicencio, making him the most surprising candidate for the competition’s Golden Boot.
3. Honduras: 4 pts; GF 5; GA 5; GD 0
Los Catrachos look set for a tense group stage finale: their match against Canada will, quite probably, be a winner-takes-all battle for the final ticket out of Group B.
The team hasn’t been particularly impressive up to this point in the competition: sagging late in the game against El Salvador, needing an hour and a fortuitous injury to their opponent’s starting goalkeeper to get ahead of Cuba, and proving unable to leave a mark on Mexico.
Three games (if all goes to plan) left to pick up some momentum and find a way to New Zealand.
Key player: Bryan Rochez
The most accomplished scorer at the professional level in the Honduras squad and a man who will shortly have the privilege of playing alongside Kaka for his new club, Orlando City SC, Rochez scored Los Catrachos‘ opening goal of the tournament – a sixth-minute penalty against Honduras – and hasn’t troubled the score sheet since.
Time to find the net again.
4. Canada: 3 pts; GF 5; GA 6; GD -1
More troubling perhaps than losing to a last-minute goal against El Salvador will have been the fact Canada was very much second-best for most of the game. The Canadians deserved to lose the match, even if they had appeared to have done enough for a draw.
With Cuba and a lackluster Honduras remaining on its Group B schedule, this team is definitely not out of the running for a place in the next round. But it needs to find better form on the field – fast.
Key Player: Luca Gasparotto
Part of Canada’s problem so far has been an inability to keep a clean sheet, despite some acrobatic and impressive work by ‘keeper Nolan Wirth. Gasparotto has the captain’s armband and the job of organizing the back line.
5. Haiti: 2 pts; GF 4; GA 6; GD -2
Les Grenadiers appear to be playing for pride now, since no one expects them to beat Mexico and even a win over Honduras probably won’t be enough on its own to get them into the top three of the group in the final standings.
The last-minute equalizer against El Salvador revived hope of making an impact on the tournament, and the last-minute equalizer conceded to Cuba seems to have snatched that hope away.
Key Player: Ramos Pointe Jour
Any team with Mexico still on its schedule has to worry about preventing the scoreline from getting out of hand. ‘Keeper Pointe Jour’s major contribution to the tournament so far has been his spirited effort to get himself sent off – either for maiming an opponent or handling outside the area – in a moment of madness against Cuba. He will need more positive highlights against El Tri.
6. Cuba: 1 pt; GF 3; GA 14; GD -11
It is unfortunate Cuba had to start its tournament by playing Mexico and suffering an almighty walloping at the hands of the best team in the competition. More unfortunate still: losing starting ‘keeper Elier Pozo to injury against Honduras while he was in the middle of what was starting to look like a point-saving performance. And if the team had done a better job of taking its chances against Haiti, it could have picked up three points in that game.
All in all, the sense is Cuba simply hasn’t had much luck in Jamaica so far. It does not look at all like a realistic prospect to make the next round, but it has shown enough in its last couple of matches to suggest this team could yet spring an upset before it exits the tournament.
Key Player: Eddy Sanamé
Currently the only player in the tournament to have scored a goal against Mexico. And if he can score against Mexico, he can score against any other team in this competition.
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