Mexico's Uriel Antuna (#7) celebrates with teammates after scoring against El Salvador in the CONCACAF Under-20 Championship on March 1, 2017, in San Jose, Costa Rica. (Photo: Straffon Images)
SAN JOSE, Costa Rica – Mexico (1W-0D-1L, 3 points) was in unfamiliar territory as it lined up across from El Salvador (0-0-1, 0) on Wednesday night. For the first time in eight years, it was coming off a loss at the CONCACAF Under-20 Championship and its U-20 World Cup qualifying fate hung in the balance.
With little room for error in the classification-round encounter, Mexico responded emphatically and rode a four-goal first half to a 6-1 victory.
The Tricolor now must wait for Friday’s meeting between the Salvadorans and the United States (1-0-0, 3) to see if it qualifies for the World Cup. Regardless, the players are proud of how they responded to what was an unaccustomed adversity.
“The objective was to work as a team,” said Uriel Antuna, who struck for three of the five goals scored by Santos players (the other was an own-goal). “The three goals goes down to our teamwork.
“It’s true that the five goals we scored were all from Santos players, but just as importantly, we were all working as a team with the same objective of qualifying for a World Cup.”
In its bid for a fourth consecutive title, Mexico still has the opportunity to qualify for the competition’s final, but the power is out of its hands.
A U.S. win or draw will earn it the Group D title and a meeting with Honduras on Sunday for the trophy. An El Salvador victory opens the door for Mexico, but all unresolved matters will be determined through tiebreakers.
The Mexican players know they don’t control their own fate. They are hopeful, however, that things will go their way ultimately.
“There are many possibilities where we can qualify,” said Santos’ Ronaldo Cisneros, the tournament’s top scorer with six goals. “We think that El Salvador can do well against the United States and get us into the final.”