Group C opened with Venezuela surprising Jamaica 1-0, and closed the day out with Mexico defeating Uruguay 3-1 in a hard fought match that was competitive for all 90 minutes.
In the first game, Jamaica put Venezuela under pressure early, only to see one shot brilliantly saved over the goal by Venezuela keeper Dani Hernandez, and a header rattle off the underside of the crossbar and out from a corner kick. Three minutes later, and against the run of play, Venezuela won the ball back in Jamaica’s half after a careless pass by Michael Hector, and played the ball around in a beautiful, quick, and effective counter that ended with Josef Martinez striking the ball into the back of the net. Soon after, Reggae Boyz midfielder Rodolph Austin was given a straight red card when his sliding tackle caught Tomas Rincon above the ankle with his studs. It was a very dangerous challenge, but some considered a straight red to be to harsh on Austin. From then on, Venezuela controlled the game. Jamaica brought on premier league champion Wes Morgan, who almost certainly should have started, on just before halftime, and almost immediately he tried to get on the end of a cross, but could not reach it.
Josef Martinez put Venezuela on the scoresheet with what eventually proved to be a game-winning goal
After halftime Hector tried to redeem himself for giving the ball away and had a shot on goal that beat Hernandez, but hit the far post and went out for a goal kick. Both teams had chances throughout the rest of the match, but neither was able to score. Despite winning, Venezuela looked unconvincing, unable to score a man up for most of the match. In fact, Jamaica had more chances and better chance in the second half, and will likely be more of a threat to the other team in the group.
Speaking of the other teams in the group, Mexico and Uruguay played a marathon of a match that saw two men sent off and four goals combined before all was said and done.
The night got off to a dubious start for Uruguay, who were without star man Luis Suarez due to injury, when the wrong national anthem was played in the pregame ceremonies. Once the game started, things got even worse when Alvaro Pereira found the back of their own net just four minutes into the match. Andres Guardado played in a brilliant cross that Pereira tried to clear out the side, but with the crosses’ intended target Hector Herrera on his shoulder, he was unable to get the ball clear.
Mexico slowed the game down considerably after going up, but were in complete control for the rest of the first half. For all of their dominant possession, Mexico, like Venezuela before them, were not creating many good chances on goal. In fact, the next big chance game on a counter where a brilliant run by striker Edinson Cavani got him in behind Mexico’s defense, and it took a great save from keeper Alfredo Talavera to keep Mexico in the lead. Andres Guardado picked up a yellow card in the 25th minute for a late challenge from behind on Carlos Sanchez, and almost immediately after was on the receiving end of a late challenge that got Vecino booked for Uruguay.
Cavani showed his class in an excellent performance in the loss against Mexico
After the Cavani chance, the game quieted down until the 45th minute, when Vecino picked up a second yellow card and was sent off. The challenge looked pretty dangerous initially, but on a closer look it wasn’t that hard of a tackle, and a second yellow was unlucky for Vecino. However, with one yellow already, he should have been a little more careful than he was.
Despite going down to ten men, Uruguay massively improved coming out of halftime. Losing Vecino forced Uruguay to change their gameplan, and their adjustments paid off in chance after chance on counter attacks. Uruguay’s midfield and defense tightened up and played narrower, sacrificing the wings to control the center of the pitch. Mexico’s wingers, who looked dangerous all night, had plenty of chances to cross the ball in, but no one tall enough to cross it in to. Chicharito is a talented striker in the air, but he is only 5’9”, not tall enough to challenge Uruguay’s excellent centre back partnership of Diego Godin and Jose Maria Gimenez.
Both teams had a few chances in the second half, but Uruguay seemed to be knocking on the door more than Mexico, and you could almost feel the equalizer coming. Then, in the 75th minute, the game’s plot thickened when Andres Guardado fouled a Uruguay player to give Uruguay yet another free kick in Mexico’s half. The referee did not initially show Guardado a card for the challenge, but something happened afterward that changed his mind, and after a long delay Guardado was mysteriously shown the door. Then, as if that wasn’t enough for El Tri, Diego Godin scored a fantastic headed goal on the resulting free kick. Uruguay were finally able to take advantage of one of Mexico’s biggest weaknesses, defending set pieces. Mexico doesn’t have a lot of height to defend set pieces with, and with all of Uruguay’s aerial talent it was only a matter of time before someone connected with a free kick.
Like Uruguay, Mexico did not give up after going down to ten men and conceding. They came out of the kickoff with a newfound sense of urgency and immediately put Uruguay under great pressure. It was just a question of whether or not Mexico had enough time to break down Uruguay’s strong defense. After he had a dangerous attempt deflected wide by Maxi Pereira, Chicharito made way for Raul Jimenez, who gave Mexico a taller target up front and forced Uruguay to respect crosses more.
Just two minutes later, Mexico won a corner, and Diego Godin was given a yellow card for a scrum in the box before it was taken. Godin was livid with the referee, who at this point had drawn the ire of both sides, and could not believe that he was carded for his play. The corner was taken short to Hirving Lozano, who tried to find captain Rafa Marquez in the box, but Marquez could not control it. Jimenez chased the ball down and played it back in to the veteran defender Marquez, who looked like a striker as he smashed perfectly into the top right corner of the net, despite a tight angle (Alternate angles). It was at this point that the almost entirely Mexican crowd erupted in jubilation for the man that had captained their team through four World Cups. However, the match was far from over.
Mexico’s skipper validated his inclusion in the starting lineup with the winning goal
Four minutes of extra time were added on by the referee, and Uruguay went into an all-out assault on Mexico’s defense. Under immense pressure, Mexico cleared the ball and won a corner through Lozano, who had a great game after coming on for Javier Aquino, who was also excellent for El Tri. The ball was passed out tot he back and then lofted up for Jimenez, who knocked it on for Lozano, who was through down the left wing. Lozano crossed it in for Jimenez, who could not get a shot away, but looked up and chipped a pass over Muslera in goal for Hector Herrera, who calmly jumped up and redirected the pass into the empty net in front of him, to put the game away for Mexico.
Both teams faced adversity and did well with it. Mexico came away with a huge win that puts them in the drivers seat in group C, but Uruguay can take plenty of positives away from this game. They were able to get Edinson Cavani much more involved in the second half, and Cavani was flawless in that game. Everyone makes mistakes over the course of the 90 minutes, but after watching the whole game I don’t remember one instance where Cavani made one. His movement, hold-up play, and passing were all perfect, and he demonstrated why he is a top-class striker. With him at the helm and Godin in the back, expect Uruguay to recover well from this game and claim a spot in the knockout rounds.
Godin was in top form against El Tri, and should be able to lead his team tot he knockout rounds
What would one of these posts be without massive thanks to the reddit.com/r/soccer community? Massive thanks for the GIFs from users u/badgersgopoo and u/Omar_Til_Death. Before I go, here’s my favorite blooper from the tournament so far, from the Jamaica vs Venezuela game. I call it “Tunnel Vision.” Courtesy of u/G_I_Joe_Mansueto.