Mexico capped its series of pre-Gold Cup friendlies by cruising to a 2-1 win over Paraguay in Seattle on Saturday night at CenturyLink Field.
While Mexico’s team of top-tier players fell short of advancing to the Confederations Cup final in Russia this week, Mexico’s B team capped its series of pre-Gold Cup friendlies by defeating Paraguay in Seattle on Saturday thanks to a strong first half.
Mexico scored early — in the 19th minute — and held the lead from that point forward, beating Paraguay 2-1 in the international friendly played at CenturyLink Field in front of 37,011, most of whom were supporting Mexico.
For Mexico, the game served as a final tuneup match before it begins the CONCACAF Gold Cup, the regional championship of North America, Central America and the Caribbean.
Elias Hernandez, who was responsible for Mexico’s only goal in its win in a friendly against Ghana on Wednesday, scored again Saturday with a penalty kick in the 26th minute. His goal, which stretched Mexico’s lead to 2-0, sparked the singing of “Cielito lindo,” a Mexican folk song, throughout most of the stadium.
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Paraguay’s captain, midfielder Cristian Riveros, said the passionate crowd could have affected the younger players on his team, but he did not think his performance was influenced by Mexico’s fans.
“We come to the United States often and we know that Mexico has a big following in the United States,” said Riveros, who has now played 100 games for Paraguay. “To me, it’s beautiful. It’s not really pressure.”
Mexico’s first goal came from Rodolfo Pizarro with his shot into the top right corner in the 19th minute.
After a corner kick, Paraguay’s Antonio Bareiro headed the ball into the crossbar, but moments later he sent a header into the net just as the first half came to a close. That narrowed Mexico’s lead to 2-1, but both teams finished the game with a quiet second half.
“I think this Mexican national team is one of the best that plays in Mexico,” Riveros said. “That was noticeable in the first half, that it’s a game that’s well-worked, that they have a style of play and the first half, they were superior to us. … (In the second half), we had chances that we didn’t take advantage of.”
In the 57th minute, Mexico forward Alan Pulido injured his right arm and had to leave the game. While it is not confirmed, Mexico coach Luis Pompilio Paez said he is about 70 percent sure Pulido’s arm is fractured. If that is the case, Mexico can substitute a player on its roster for the Gold Cup up to 24 hours before the first match.
Mexico’s starting goalkeeper, Jesus Corona, who was also part of Mexico’s 2012 gold-medal-winning Olympic team, finished the day with four saves as Mexico’s defense allowed Paraguay to take 15 shots.
Ten of Mexico’s starters for Saturday’s match also had playing time just three days ago against Ghana. Still, all 10 played at least 86 minutes against Paraguay.
“There is always fatigue,” Pompilio Paez said. “This is the third week of preparation. All these players had some rest. Others had more rest than other ones. The most important thing, when there’s a good preparation, we don’t want any player to be injured.”
After winning the Gold Cup in 2015, the Mexico squad that defeated Paraguay, plus three other players who are in Russia for the Confederations Cup, will soon head to San Diego for their opener against El Salvador on July 9.