Mexico's one goal enough to beat woeful Honduras to semifinal spot

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Rodolfo Pizarro Mexico Gold Cup
Norm Hall
El Tri didn't need much to beat a Honduran team that exits the Gold Cup without scoring a goal but still had its best performance of the tournament

Mexico did its job after just three minutes, with Rodolfo Pizarro scoring shortly after the whistle and Mexico hanging on to move into the Gold Cup semifinals.

Playing a Honduras team that hadn't scored a goal in the entire tournament and made the quarterfinals by virtue of its defense and a 3-0 win awarded thanks to French Guiana's forfeit, that was enough.

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Heading into the match, the question was whether Mexico would be able to get around a Honduran team that was likely to park the bus in front of the goal. The question was answered in the affirmative as Pizarro put one in before Honduras could even get the bus firmly parked.

"I think it's tough when all the opponents sit back," Pizarro told Univision after the match. "I think we're getting better, getting to know each other more, which is fundamental. I think we've gotten better."

It was better than Mexico's previous performances and was the smartest game El Tri have played. Once the objective of scoring a goal was achieved, they kept the ball well. After struggling with the speed needed to move the ball in the final group match against Curacao, the side moved it with more pace Thursday night. It was no accident that happened with Jesus Duenas and Jesus Molina in the starting XI and continued when Edson Alvarez moved into the midfield and took Molina's place just after the hour mark.

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Rodolfo Pizarro Erick Torres Mexico Gold Cup

Jesus Corona was called into action, with an olimpico attempt from Olimpia midfielder Alexander Lopez forcing the goalkeeper to retreat and punch the bending ball away from his goal. But Mexico's defense was largely able to spectate - or in the case of Alvarez - who started on the back line - and Jesus Gallardo, to get forward and join the attacks as Mexico coach Juan Carlos Osorio hoped.

Osorio may not have hoped Jamaica would be waiting for his team in the semifinal. The Reggae Boyz locked down Mexico's attack in the teams' group game and despite Pizarro finding the back of the net, Mexico was unable to add to its lead. That might not be good enough against Jamaica.

"I think it's going to be a very complicated game. It's going to be the same, they're going to sit back and wait for us to make a mistake," Pizarro said. "We've got to be concentrated and now analyze and figure out how to open them up."

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Then again, that's the same thing we've been saying for weeks, that Mexico won't be able to win this tournament if it doesn't find answers in attack. So far, the team has been able to move on despite its lack of a forward. Pizarro's goal may give some confidence that the side can win even without someone emerging to regularly score goals. Elias Hernandez's ball for Orbelin Pineda in the first half and Pineda himself having a few shots from distance likewise indicated there could've been more goals in the game had Mexico been more efficient. The chances aren't all being converted, but so far the team is doing what it takes to get the job done and survive in the tournament.

Thursday night, that was simply scoring once and holding on for dear life. It might be the same against a Jamaica team that has been defensive in its approach and landed in the semifinals. If Thursday was any indication, Mexico will be prepared to do what it takes to move past the Jamaicans. Perhaps El Tri won't be able to do much more than that, but the minimum required has been sufficient.