Historic gold for Mexico’s women, men earn bronze at Pan Am Games

Lizbeth Ovalle leaps on Rebeca Bernal after the latter scored a free kick that gave Mexico a 1-0 victory in the gold medal match against host Chile. (Photo by Javier TORRES / AFP) (Photo by JAVIER TORRES/AFP via Getty Images)
Lizbeth Ovalle leaps on Rebeca Bernal after the latter scored a free kick that gave Mexico a 1-0 victory in the gold medal match against host Chile. (Photo by Javier TORRES / AFP) (Photo by JAVIER TORRES/AFP via Getty Images) /
Mexico football Pan Am Games
Mexico captain Fidel Ambriz was unable to help El Mini Tri defeat Brazil in the Pan Am Games semifinal. Los Verdes made up for the disappointment with a win in the bronze medal match. (Photo by JAVIER TORRES/AFP via Getty Images) /

El Tri Femenil made history at the Pan Am Games, winning gold for the first time ever. Prior to Friday night’s victory, the best results for Mexico in the women’s tournament was one silver (at the inaugural tournament in 1999) and three bronze (2003, 2011, 2015).

The Lady Aztecas defeated host Chile 1-0 in the final after easing through the group stage (outscoring their three opponents 14-2) and cruising past Argentina 2-0 in Tuesday’s semifinal.

Although Mexico had bruised Chile in the group stage (winning 3-1 with three second-half goals to erase a 1-0 deficit), the final was considerably more tense despite dominating the stats pages. Defender Rebeca Bernal played the hero, scoring with a Messi-like free kick in minute 28.

“La Roja Femenina” opened the game with a protest, sitting and kneeling on the pitch after the opening kick-off, and the Girls from Mexico honored the protest.

Chile’s team was demonstrating its disgust with the removal from its roster of its top two goalies – Christiane Endler and Antonia Canales – both of whom were summoned back to their club teams, Olympique de Lyon and Valencia, respectively. Endler is considered among the best goalkeeper in the women’s game right now.

Mexico limited Chile to just one shot on goal on the night and played keep-away successfully, hoarding the ball for 62% of the match. El Tri Femenil had several chances to increase the lead in the second half, seeing one goal disallowed for offside and hitting the post once.

Mexico U-23 spanks Yanks to claim bronze

Despite failing to score a goal in it first four matches at the Pan Am Games in Chile, El Mini Tri managed to qualify for the men’s bronze-medal match.

That improbable scenario was made possible by a first-half own goal by Uruguay’s Alan Saldivia in Mexico’s final group-stage match. Prior to that, Mexico had lost 1-0 to host Chile and played the Dominican Republic to a scoreless draw.

El Tri was blanked again in the semifinal, losing 1-0 to Brazil, setting the stage for a Concacaf showdown with Team USA, a 1-0 loser to Chile in the other semifinal.

At Viña Del Mar on Saturday afternoon, Mexico banged home four goals after conceding the opener to Uncle Sam’s Kiddie Corps, running away with a 4-1 victory.

Portland Timbers forward Tega Ikoba put the Northerns ahead with a scissors kick from point-blank range in minute 23 but Mexican shoulders did not slump.

Just before the half, Pumas right back Pablo Monroy cut inside his marker, dribbled across the top of the box then slid a pass to former Santos Laguna starlet Jordan Carrillo who fired off one-timer from just outside the box. U.S. goalie Chituru Odunze went down to one knee to stop the low shot but muffed it, the ball skidding between his legs and into the net.

A Tigres-León-Tigres combination put El Tri on top in minute 50. Raymundo Fulgencio fed Fidel Ambriz out wide right and Mexico’s skipper fired a low cross that the hustling Fulgencio met at the near post, flicking a right-footer past the keeper.

Mexico continued to pour it on, flowing forward with patient counter-attacks. In minute 72, Carrillo scored his second, pouncing on a rebound and sending a left-footer diagonally past the onrushing keeper and inside the right post.

Monterrey’s Alí Ávila completed the scoring with an easy tap-in late in the match. Guadalajara’s Jesús Brigido shed his marker with a change-of-pace dribble, racing free down the left flank before sending a perfect right into the US goal mouth.

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Mexico earned its fourth Pan Am Games bronze medal in the past 20 years and its second straight. Better yet, the 4-1 win allows El Tri to wag a modest finger at its bitter rivals who have dominated the series at the senior level for the better part of two decades.