Mexico is the champion of the 2015 Gold Cup. Well, Mexico and the refs. Some spectacularly bad refereeing helped El Tri make it to the final, but once there, it finally put on a show, beating Jamaica 3-1.
This was the tournament in which Mexico proved itself. More than booking its spot in the Confederations Cup playoff, the Gold Cup was a showcase for El Tri’s absurd amount of talent. There’s no longer any doubt which team in CONCACAF is the most talented. In fact, the gulf between Mexico and the rest of the region may be even bigger than we previously thought.
Jesus “Tecatito” Corona was the breakout star of the tournament, living up to every bit of his considerable hype and capping things with a goal in the final. He was so good that Carlos Vela, who finally returned to the Mexico team in the last year, wasn’t even missed. Meanwhile, Oribe Peralta continued his goal scoring ways, making the injury that kept Giovani dos Santos out of the knockout stages into an afterthought.
Andrés Guardado proved himself the captain and leader Mexico’s been searching for while establishing himself as the tournament’s best player. Not only did he take several outstanding penalties the referees kindly gifted Mexico, but he put together spectacular performance after spectacular performance on the wing. He finished with six goals, including a clinical volleyed finish in the final.
That only encompasses the attacking talent the team showed off. Hector Herrera, who has proven himself a terrific player for Porto in the Champions League, struggled, but Mexico just brought on Jesús Dueñas. Jonathan dos Santos was one of the tournament’s best midfielders, so El Tri never regretted leaving Juan Carlos Medina, Luis Montes and Marco Fabián off the roster.
Diego Reyes was typically excellent at the back, Paul Aguilar was strong and Miguel Layún continued to show that he is one of the best and most versatile players in CONCACAF.
That Hector Moreno and Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez had to be scratched from the tournament with injuries didn’t keep Mexico from far outstripping the rest of the region in individual quality. It didn’t matter if it was up front, in the middle or at the back, the Gold Cup proved to be a showcase for Mexico’s enviable talent.
The question, then, is why Mexico struggled so much with such talent. Miguel Herrera’s going to have to find an answer, because it’s one thing to win the Gold Cup with the referees doing Mexico favors and when every game is essentially a home game, but it’s quite another to go on the road in World Cup qualifying and get results in Costa Rica, Honduras or a frigid Columbus Crew Stadium in the U.S. Just last cycle, Mexico ran roughshod over the 2011 Gold Cup and only just qualified for the 2014 World Cup.
World Cup qualifying, and Herrera’s performance, are a matter for this fall, though. Right now, Mexico is having a celebration, as well it should. El Tri are champions, and it’s thanks to that talent. That enviable, amazing and phenomenally deep talent.