Gomez the hero for mighty Mexico
Mexico looked dead and buried in their semi-final against Germany, down 2-1 in the 76th minute. But Julio Gomez – who had opened the scoring – inspired a second goal, went off on a stretcher with blood pouring from his head and then scored the winner in the 3-2 classic semi-final that sends El Tri through to the ultimate match at the Estadio Azteca on 10 July. Germany, for their part, will have only the consolation of taking on Brazil in the match for third place.
The fans didn’t have to wait long to jump up out of their seats as their beloved home side took the lead after only three minutes. A curling cross from the left side from Jorge Caballero picked out Gomez, who nodded an oddly bouncing header inside the near post after eluding his marker’s attentions. The Torreon crowd – seeing their home team for the first time at these finals – must have thought they would be treated to a rout.
Germany had other ideas, however. While the Mexicans went back up in search of another goal, they were soon given a taste of the Europeans’ trademark ruthless efficiency. A mistake by captain Carlos Briseno allowed the wily Samed Yesil to get hold of the ball in the attacking third and score his sixth goal of Mexico 2011. His low rolling shot from long-range slipped past the wrong-footed Richard Sanchez and into the back of the net to a gasp from the shocked crowd.
Yesil nearly picked up his second mid-way through the opening period when he dribbled past his man and fired low again from 25 yards with his left foot. The effort slipped just wide of the post this time as the fans began to chew their fingernails.
Both sides had chances to score before the interval. Jorge Espericueta and Marco Bueno were both denied by Oddisseas Vlachodimos at one end and then Germany’s ace in the hole, Yesil, could only hit over with the goal at his mercy. The Mexicans began to pile on the pressure early in the second half. Espericueta went close to putting Mexico back in the lead after only five minutes, but the safe hands of the German keeper denied him.
Short passes were the order of the day for the home side, but they were unable to find the final pass in attack. Noah Korzowski nearly did them a favour in the 58th minute when he tapped just wide of his own goal from a Gomez cross. It took the Europeans only seconds to get it right up the other end. The powerful Emre Can raced past three defenders, burst into the penalty and slotted home while sliding to put the Germans into a 2-1 lead.
The Mexicans did their all to haul themselves back into the game, and they got the leveler in the 76th minute. Espericueta’s corner-kick flew directly into the net as Gomez and a German defender collided on the goal-line. The celebrations in the stadium were tempered by the fact that Gomez had to be stretchered off the pitch with a head injury, requiring stitches. He made his way back onto the field after changing his shirt and having his head wrapped and went on to win the contest with a goal for the ages. His dazzling overhead kick will go down in the legend and lore of Mexican football and the U-17 World Cup both.
The Mexicans now move on to the final of the tournament at the Estadio Azteca on 10 July, where they will meet Uruguay, who beat Brazil 3-0 in the other semi-final.