Mexico were deserved winners of the Gold Cup on Sunday as they defeated a Jamaican side that had already accomplished far beyond expectations over the two summer tournaments in which they participated. Jamaica were lively in the opening fifteen minutes and created a few scares in front of the Mexican goal, but El Tri imposed their technical superiority on the Reggae Boyz and eventually took over the game.
That said, I thought that Guardado's opening goal was a bit of a surprise given the run of play, and it came from Mexico's only real chance of the first half. Any hope of a Jamaican comeback was squashed within seconds of the restart when Corona hit a long-range shot, and Mexico overran a tiring and careless Jamaican defense to score the third through Peralta.
Despite the defeat, Jamaican fans should feel proud of this team, as Reggae Boyz coach Winfried Schaefer said in the post-match press conference. The team has come a long way, and the 2-1 victory over the USA in the semifinal will enter the pantheon of great Jamaican football successes, but there is still further to go with the third round of World Cup qualifying to be negotiated. The walkout of Portland Timbers defender Alvas Powell doesn't help matters, but it's clear that Schaefer will not make overtures toward someone who does not buy into the team.
Mexico deserved to win the final, but they were the last ones standing in a tournament characterized by controversy, inconsistency, and frustration. Mexico's only convincing wins were in their first and last games of the tournament, and the others featured a poor 0-0 result against Guatemala, a crazy 4-4 draw to Trinidad & Tobago, and two knockout matches decided by extremely controversial penalties. Costa Rica and Honduras failed to win a game between them. Canada, in need of a win, labored to a poor goalless draw in their final group game. Guatemala couldn't defeat a Cuba side depleted by defections. (On the flip side, how about Cuba, to advance to the knockout phase of the Gold Cup for the first time? Imagine how better they'd be with a little more freedom.) Clint Dempsey's goals masked what was a mediocre Gold Cup for the USA, and if you look at the bare results, it's the worst continental tournament for them since 2000.
So now Mexico will face the USA in a winner-take-all Confederations Cup playoff at the Rose Bowl on October 9. It's not clear which US side will take the field -- the one that won European friendlies against Germany and the Netherlands, or the one that played inconsistently and fell to the Jamaicans in the Gold Cup semifinal. (There's an interesting roundtable at ESPNFC that discusses this and other topics.) One would think that the Mexican side would have the momentum, but after yesterday's events that led to the dismissal of Miguel Herrera, that momentum is gone as well.
One thing is clear though: in CONCACAF, everyone's flawed.