Wolves’ record signing Raul Jimenez is dreaming of Gold Cup glory after putting Mexico into the final – and he’s the hero after scoring the only goal in their semi-final against Haiti.
The 28-year-old striker netted a 93rd-minute penalty in extra-time after the tie had ended 0-0 in normal time.
Jimenez won the spot kick after Herve Bazile brought him down just inside the box and the forward coolly sent goalkeeper Jhony Placide the wrong way.
Haiti had a final chance to equalise in the 119th minute, but Mikeal Gabriel Cantave’s shot hit the bar and rebounded to Mexico keeper Guillermo Ochoa.
Mexico face defending champions United States or Jamaica in Sunday’s final at Chicago’s Soldier Field. The USA and Jamaica play early on Thursday morning at 0230 BST, at Nissan Stadium, Nashville, Tennessee.
“Personally, I’ve never won (the Gold Cup). I’ve only been once and we finished in the semi-final, so I’m coming in with passion, pride and the drive to win it – it is something I’m missing,” said Jimenez. “It’s going to be very special for me, it’s a very good opportunity to show Mexico and the world who I am.”
Jimenez is also aiming to be the top scorer in the competition. He currently has five goals, one behind 19-year-old Canada striker Jonathan David, but the Gent forward’s tournament is over.
Mexico, seven-time Gold Cup champions, arrived in the desert as an overwhelming favourites against the young, confident Haitian side featuring former Wolves reserve Duckens Nazon on the left of an attacking three in their 4-2-3-1 formation.
But despite their ranking of 101 in the world, Haiti didn’t bow under the pressure of playing in its first Gold Cup semi-final or facing Mexico in front of 64,000 fans who made it feel like a home match for El Tri.
Haiti beat Canada in the semis for their biggest win since qualifying for the 1974 World Cup and withstood Mexico’s constant pressure, and counter-attacking when the opportunity arose.
With manager Gerardo Martino watching from the stands after being suspended, Mexico struggled to finish in the first half despite numerous chances. Placide also made a diving save to deny Jimenez’s header late in the half to keep it goalless.
Placide made another spectacular save in the 67th minute, leaping to beat away Andres Guardado’s free kick from just outside the area, and Mexico continued to watch chances go begging.
Mexico, who beat Costa Rica on penalties in the quarter-finals, pressured Haiti throughout the first half. But Les Grenadiers played a countering, direct-attack game to create a few chances of their own.
With Mexico unable to finish, Haiti seemed to build more confidence the longer the game remained goalless. But ultimately, they came up short.