SAN ANTONIO, Texas -- Mexico (2W-1D-0L, 7 points) secured the Group C crown with a 2-0 victory over Curacao in the last group-stage match of the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup at the Alamodome on Sunday night.
Angel Sepulveda and Edson Alvarez scored for the defending champion, which will meet Honduras in the quarterfinals Thursday in Glendale, Arizona. Curacao (0-0-3, 0) was eliminated from contention earlier in the evening after Jamaica and El Salvador played to a 1-1 draw.
The Mexicans made 10 changes from Thursday’s scoreless draw with Jamaica as only attacker Orbelin Pineda maintained his place in the starting lineup.
Despite competing solely for pride, Curacao submitted a performance brimming with urgency and spirit.
The 2017 Scotiabank CFU Men’s Caribbean Cup champion enjoyed the better of play in the early going. Forward Gino van Kessel forced Mexico goalkeeper Jesus Corona into a diving save in the 14th minute.
Shortly afterwards, the Mexicans started to establish a rhythm and broke the ice against the run of play in the 22nd minute. Raul Lopez launched a right-wing cross to Sepulveda, who headed the ball past goalkeeper Eloy Room at the far post for his first goal of the competition.
Curacao made Mexico sweat and Corona work overtime in the second half.
Leandro Bacuna headed the ball off the crossbar four minutes after the break. Corona then denied Bacuna in the 52nd minute and van Kessel with a right-footed save in the 56th minute; just seconds after Gevaro Nepomuceno fired a shot off the bar only seconds later.
Room kept Curacao within striking distance, frustrating Jorge Hernandez four times (64’, 65’, 81’, 85’).
Second-half substitute Alvarez, 19, gave Mexico some breathing room, connecting for his first international goal one minute into stoppage time.