Mexico, Ticos complete last four
The two remaining Caribbean participants - Haiti and Guadeloupe - both went crashing out of the 2009 CONCACAF Gold Cup by big margins on Sunday. Victorious Mexico and Costa Rica, for their part, will meet in the semi-finals in Chicago on Thursday.
Mexico had no trouble against Haiti on a rough night for the island sides in the biennial regional showpiece. After taking firm control of proceedings in Dallas early on, El Tri's first goal came after just 21 minutes. Israel Castro stepped up to the spot after the Haitians were penalised for a handball in the penalty area. Jean Dominique Zepherin did well to save the shot, but Miguel Sabah, the tournament's top scorer, stormed through to slam home the second attempt.
With just two minutes to go in the first half, Tottenham Hotspur man Gio dos Santos doubled the Mexican lead with a stunning goal from the edge of the box. Leaving his marker for dead with a deft feint, the striker swivelled and curled his left-footed shot just inside the post to make it 2-0 for the four-time Gold Cup winners at the break.
Sabah struck again after the interval, his second goal of the game and his fourth of these finals, nodding home from a corner-kick in the 63rd minute. One more corner, this time in the 83rd minute, brought the final goal of the 4-0 rout, and arguably the best of the lot. Substitute Pablo Barrera got on the end of Dos Santos's feed to slam home an extravagant volley at the back post.
In the earlier game in Dallas, Costa Rica made similarly light work of Guadeloupe to cap a 5-1 win and book their place in the semi-finals. Young playmaker Celso Borges set the tone early, putting the Ticos in the driving seat with a scintillating overhead kick after just three minutes.
In the 16th minute, the Central Americans doubled their lead. This time, Alvaro Saborio broke in behind the Guadeloupe rearguard to nod home on the end of a long ball up through midfield. Two minutes into the second half it was 3-0 for the rampant Costa Ricans, this time Andy Herron performed a fine give-and-go with Borges at the edge of the box before rifling into the top corner.
The islanders - without two starters who were ejected in their last group game against Mexico - gave themselves a brief glint of hope in the 63rd minute, when Swiss-based Alexandre Alphonse finished off a fine counter-attack to make the score 3-1. However, just nine minutes later Saborio poked home his second of the night before substitute Pablo Herrera made the final score 5-1 from close range in the dying moments.
"I think the changes made a difference with fresh legs," Costa Rica coach Rodrigo Kenton said. "The players understood the scheme. We started out strong. When they tried to come back, we were able to keep control of the game."
Mexico and Costa Rica will square off in their semi-final on 23 July in Chicago. The other game in the last-four stage will see the USA, hosts and holders, take on Honduras earlier in the day at the same venue.