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Mexico look to Gold Cup quarterfinals after victory clinches the group

Angel Sepulveda celebrates after opening the scoring for Mexico in its match against Curacao.
Angel Sepulveda netted Mexico's first on Sunday. Can he be the striker the team needs?

Although the match was surprisingly frustrating, Mexico were able to sneak past Curacao with a 2-0 win Sunday night. Following goals from Angel Sepulveda and Edson Alvarez and the ensuing capture of three points, Mexico has finished at the top of Group C in the Gold Cup.

Looking ahead, El Tri will need to prepare for its upcoming quarterfinal clash against Honduras on Thursday in Phoenix.

Positives

Whether or not you agree with the tactics of Juan Carlos Osorio, one thing is certain: The man knows how to get results. After a much criticized group-stage run, the currently suspended manager has found a way to emerge with a spot in first place.

In net, there's also something to be said for goalkeeper Jose de Jesus Corona. Despite his 36 years of age, Corona was brilliant with his game-changing saves. If Osorio continues to give him minutes, Mexico might be able to continue clinching scrappy victories.

Negatives

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, the back line was again a massive problem for Mexico. Starters such as Cesar Montes, Luis Reyes, Jair Pereira and Luis Rodriguez should have easily been able to avoid the amount of problems seen in defense.

Up top, there also needs to be a striker who takes charge. Against Curacao, Martin Barragan failed to show up for El Tri. In the previous match against Jamaica, Erick "Cubo" Torres was fairly quiet. Sepulveda might be the answer here, but he is better suited on one of the wings.

CuracaoCuracao
MexicoMexico
0
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Manager (rating out of 10)

6.5 -- Did Osorio's rotations have a negative influence? Should more of the blame be put on the several individuals who didn't take the initiative against Curacao?

In the starting XI, most if not all players were in their natural positions. Also, a few names who failed to garner regular minutes earlier in the Gold Cup were given an opportunity to start. While the suspended Osorio sat far up in a club box, assistant Luis Pompilio Paez made clever substitutions in the second half that helped garner a win.

Osorio's penchant for a questionable number of rotations should be brought up, but on Sunday, his starters should have been able to look more in control against nonthreatening opposition.

Player ratings (1-10, with 10 the best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)

GK Jose de Jesus Corona, 9 -- Corona helped compensate for a porous back line that allowed eight shots on target. With his impressive saves, the veteran was Mexico's best player on Sunday night.

DF Luis Rodriguez, 5 -- Little impact in the attack and defense from El Tri's right-back. Rodriguez should have taken greater advantage of his first start in the tournament.

DF Jair Pereira, 6.5 -- Although Pereira could have made better decisions, the 31-year-old was crucial with his clearances and tackles. The central defender was a leader with his constant orders and nearly scored off a well-placed header.

DF Cesar Montes, 5.5 -- At first hesitant and cautious, Montes struggled to find confidence until late in the game. The youngster might need more time to adapt to the national team.

DF Luis Reyes, 4.5 -- For a player who was able to take part in the Confederations Cup, Reyes was disappointing with his quiet performance. The opposition had no trouble occasionally running past the left-back.

MF Orbelin Pineda, 6 -- An off-day for the talented midfielder. While Erick Gutierrez was helping construct plays, Pineda was left with only a handful of threatening passes and dribbles. More was expected from the player than an average evening.

MF Jorge Hernandez, 5 -- Following a worrisome start that included bad passes and a highly inaccurate shot, Hernandez almost compensated through his constant distribution. That said, he nearly cost Mexico a goal early on.

MF Erick Gutierrez, 7 -- Gutierrez was El Tri's playmaker. The 22-year-old was one of the hardest-working members of the starting XI with his incessant energy and clever passes. All that was missing was better finishing.

Mexico's back line made it difficult on the keeper, but Jesus Corona was up to the challenge.

FW Raul Lopez, 8 -- When Mexico was desperate for more chances in the final third, Lopez stepped up with several dangerous and accurate crosses from distance. The winger, who later took charge as a right-back, finished with an assist on Sepulveda's goal.

FW Martin Barragan, 4 -- An ineffective performance. The striker mistimed several headers that could have helped Mexico find a more convincing victory.

FW Angel Sepulveda, 7 -- After scoring El Tri's first goal in the 22nd minute, Sepulveda appeared to wake up with more dangerous shots and opportunities.

Substitutes

FW Elias Hernandez, 7.5 -- Was substituted in for Rodriguez during the 57th minute. Given more time, Hernandez would have finished with at least one goal. The winger kicked off some much-needed momentum with his dribbles and shots on target.

MF Edson Alvarez, 7.5 -- Was substituted for Barragan in the 66th minute. Alvarez helped maintain possession as a defensive midfielder and later secured the three points with a goal during injury time.

FW Jesus Gallardo, N/A -- Was substituted for Pineda in the 74th minute.

Cesar Hernandez covers Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @cesarhfutbol.

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