(AFP) – Defending champion Mexico claimed the final semi-final berth in the CONCACAF Gold Cup with a 1-0 win over the offensively-challenged Honduras national team on Thursday at the University of Phoenix Stadium.
Rodolfo Pizarro scored the only goal of the contest in the fourth minute, finishing off a nice passing series in front of the Honduras’ goal as Mexico took another step towards trying to win a record-extending eighth Gold Cup championship.
Orbelin Pineda started the play on the left side with a short back pass to Jesus Duenas, who redirected across the front of the goal to the back post, giving Pizarro an easy tap in.
Mexico advances to Sunday’s semi-final to set up a rematch of the 2015 final against Jamaica, who punched their ticket earlier in the day with a 2-1 win over Canada. Mexico and Jamaica faced each other in the group stage where they played to a 0-0 draw.
The semi-final will take place at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California.
The USA and Costa Rica will square off in the other semi-final at AT&T Stadium on Saturday in Dallas, Texas.
Honduras is eliminated from the Gold Cup after failing to score a goal in four games. Their only win came when French Guiana had to forfeit their game in the group stage after they fielded an illegal player.
Mexico reached the semis despite fielding a B-team roster that includes just one player from their fourth place Confederations Cup squad.
The seven-time tournament champions Mexico are now unbeaten in 10 consecutive Gold Cup contests.
Mexico had several opportunities to add to their goal total, but either failed to get a shot on goal or the Honduras defense broke up the scoring chance.
Honduras had one last chance to equalize in the 93rd minute on a free kick but the ball sailed wide and deep, leaving them without a clear shot on net.
Honduras coach Jorge Luis Pinto said he was proud of the way his team competed.
“I am not happy but somehow satisfied,” said Honduras coach Jorge Luis Pinto. “We won in behavior in the Gold Cup even if we didn’t score or win.”
– ‘Figured it out’ –
Earlier Thursday, goals in each half from Shaun Francis and Romario Williams secured victory for the ‘Reggae Boyz.’
“It wasn’t easy,” said Jamaican goalkeeper Andre Blake. “Canada is a very good team. When we got the second goal I think we lapsed a little bit. They scored a beautiful goal. We figured it out and we won the match.”
Jamaica got off to a dream start at the University of Phoenix Stadium when Francis scored after only six minutes.
Forward Darren Mattocks pounced on a stumble from Canada defender Steven Vitoria and darted into the area before squaring for Francis, who thumped his finish high into the roof of the net.
Mattocks almost doubled Jamaica’s lead shortly afterward only for his shot to be well blocked by goalkeeper Milan Borjan.
Canada striker Cyle Larin went close six minutes before the break but his shot was parried to safety by Andre Blake.
Jamaica doubled their lead five minutes into the second half with a sublime goal from Williams.
The Charleston Battery forward picked up Mattocks’ layoff before curling his shot from outside the area beyond Borjan.
Canada hit back with a superb long-range strike from Cardiff City’s Junior Hoilett to set up a nervy finale.
Hoilett came close to levelling with another thunderbolt from distance in the 71st minute, only to see his shot brilliantly turned around the post by Blake.