Mexico wins, advances to Copa America final
Updated: Thursday July 26, 2001 12:51 AM
PEREIRA, Colombia (AP) -- No matter how well they do against South America's soccer powers, Mexicans always feel they have something to prove.
And that's been bad news for the old boys in the Copa America.
Mexico overwhelmed 14-time tournament champion Uruguay 2-1 on Wednesday to vault into the finals of the continent's oldest and most prestigious soccer tournament.
The Mexicans, whose campaign includes a 1-0 win over defending champion Brazil, return to the finals for the first time since 1993 to face the winner of Thursday's semifinal between Colombia and Honduras.
And it's facing the big guns that brings out the best in Mexico, which has reached the semifinals four times and the finals twice in five tournament appearances.
"It's not every day we have the opportunity to play against teams of this level," coach Javier Aguirre said. "To face a team that in principle is superior makes us redouble our efforts, makes us hungry."
No one was hungrier than Jared Borgetti, who scored the game-winner against Brazil but then sat out the quarterfinals with a one-game suspension and wondered whether he would get to play again.
The 27-year-old striker had a goal and a handful of exciting plays to lead Mexico, whose quick-passing, upbeat game proved to be too much for the valiant but limited Uruguayans, who played most of the game a man down.
"I'm proud to be in the final four again," said Uruguayan coach Victor Pua, who took a squad of young promises instead of established stars. "Despite the inexperience and the lack of training, what we've done in this Copa America makes us believe they are players with a future."
Uruguay's attack was limited to sending long balls for lanky forward Richard Morales, who tested goalie Oscar Perez early.
But the Mexicans took the lead in the 13th minute on a gorgeous move by Borgetti. Taking a long pass from Alberto Garcia Aspe, he twisted defender Carlos Gutierrez around twice with two tight dribbles and fired into the upper left corner to make it 1-0.
The Uruguayans tied it on a free kick in the 32nd minute. Rodrigo Lemos lofted a ball into the area and Richard Morales leaped over the defense at the edge of the box to make it 1-1.
In the final minute of the half, Carlos Morales was expelled for a cleats-up charge on Mexico's Gerardo Torrado.
With a man advantage, Mexico swarmed the net in the second half. Jesus Arellano and Aspe got in close for tough shots on goalie Gustavo Munua, one of the standouts of the game.
Mexico knew Uruguay was going to Morales, but they still couldn't stop him. Munua sent him away with a long kick, and Morales outran for a save by Perez. A minute later, Morales had a goal called back for offsides.
Then it was Borgetti's turn to miss an incredible one-on-one chance when Munua got a glove on his chip shot in the 63rd minute.
Mexico finally got the game-winner in the 65th minute, when striker Antonio de Nigris was decked in the penalty area by Pablo Lima. Aspe fired a rocket into the upper right corner for a 2-1 lead.
Munua kept Uruguay in the game, stopping a dead-on shot from 9 meters (10 yards) by Arellano on pure reflex and diving right to block a 21 meter (23-yard) drive to the corner by Borgetti.
Three minutes from time, Aspe was expelled for a rough foul on Fabian Estoyanoff. Play got violent, and Mexico's Manuel Vidrio and Uruguay's Richard Morales were sent off in injury time.
The expulsions could be a problem, especially the absence of playmaker Aspe in the final. But it simply means Mexico must once again rise to the challenge.
"They are important players, but I have people that I hope will show me they deserve to be on the team," coach Aguirre said.