Wolves striker Raul Jimenez has achieved his pre-tournament aim of announcing himself on the world stage after a double achievement of winning the CONCACAF Gold Cup and being named best player.
The 28-year-old won the Golden Ball for being the best player as Mexico beat holders and hosts the United States 1-0 in the final in front of 62,493 at Soldier Field, Chicago, Illinois in the early hours of Monday morning. His tally of five goals tied with Canada’s Lucas Cavallini and was only bettered by Jonathan David, also from Canada, with six.
Jimenez, again as the centre forward in a 4-3-3 formation, also set up the only goal in the final for LA Galaxy midfielder Jonathan Dos Santos after 73 minutes as El Tri won a record eighth CONCACAF title in 15 tournaments.
As for his goals, the Wolves striker struck twice in a 7-0 win over Cuba, another in a 3-2 win over Martinique – all three in Group A, which Mexico won to progress to the quarter-finals. The Molineux attacker then netted his side’s goal in the 1-1 draw with Costa Rica in the last eight, which El Tri won 5-4 on penalties.
Jimenez was then Mexico’s hero in the semi-final, keeping his nerve to score the only goal, from the spot, against Haiti in extra-time.
Just before the tournament, Jimenez hinted he wanted to use the Gold Cup to showcase himself across the globe. He said: “It’s going to be very special for me, it’s a very good opportunity to show Mexico and the world who I am.
“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.”
In the final, Dos Santos started the move when he passed to Rodolfo Pizarro, whose cross Jimenez backheeled to the 29-year-old, who had continued his run. His left-footed shot went past the outstretched arm of goalkeeper Zack Steffen for just his third goal in 46 caps.
Mexico dominated possession against a US team playing in their first tournament under new coach Gregg Berhalter. Christian Pulisic, the Americans’ 20-year-old star midfielder, was by far their best player and his pace and skill created chances for the home team.
Jordan Morris beat goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa with a close-range header from Pulisic’s corner in the 51st minute, but Andres Guardado headed the effort off the line. Cristian Roldan had a chance to equalise in the 87th minute, but his point-blank shot hit Hector Moreno on the head and bounced away.
Mexico were playing in their first tournament under new coach Tata Martino. They have not lost a competitive match to the US since 2013, re-establishing El Tri as the region’s power.
Jimenez is finally set for his close season break after playing a full part in eight internationals since the Premier League season ended, including two warm-up games.
Elsewhere, Wolves utility man Romain Saiss and Morocco exited the African Cup of Nations after defeat on penalties to Benin in Egypt.
Saiss was described as one of his country’s best performers during the group stages, playing in his usual role of centre-back for Morroco, and helping them reach the knockout stages without conceding.