The two matches that took place on Sunday have officially finalized the standings after one round of games in Group A, Group B, and Group C. Both of day three's matches came from Group C. First, Venezuela picked up a valuable three points over ten-man Jamaica, then Mexico beat Uruguay in a thrilling game to take over first place in the group.
Here are some takeaways from Sunday's contests:
1. Mexico are for real
When Mexico defender/defensive midfielder Rafa Marquez, 37, rocketed home a corner-kick rebound in the 85th-minute to give his side a 2-1 lead they wouldn't relinquish, the pro-Mexico University of Phoenix Stadium crowd went into an absolute frenzy. Green and red-clad fans wearing sombreros jumped up and down holding large tifos while throwing full beer cans at steaming Uruguayan players while Marquez and his teammates passionately celebrated near the corner flag. They knew, the stadium knew, and their opponents knew that goal essentially clinched Mexico a spot in the quarterfinal stage, likely as a first-placed team.
That goal, which was followed by Hector Herrera's insurance header in stoppage time, gave El Tri first place in Group C. With two very winnable games remaining against Venezuela and Jamaica, Mexico appear likely to cruise through the rest of the group stage with nine points and a place at the top of the group. Following this very impressive victory, they look capable of making it further than the quarterfinal, though.
Mexico—basically the home team in Hispanic-heavy Arizona—got off to a perfect start against Uruguay thanks to an own goal by Alvaro Pereira in the fourth-minute. Andres Guardado sent in a threatening cross that forced Pereira to challenge Herrera in the air, resulting in an unlucky deflection off the Uruguayan defender and a 1-0 Mexico lead. El Tri continued to press their foot on the gas pedal throughout the rest of the half despite a flurry of leg-crunching tackles and yellow cards.
The chippy first half culminated in a second yellow card to Uruguay's Matias Vecino in the 45th-minute. Down a man and playing on the back foot, it appeared that La Celeste didn't have much of a chance of getting back in the game. But they came out looking like the better team in the second half, putting a number of chances on Alfredo Talavera's goal. They failed to put anything past the veteran keeper, however, until they were given a boost in the 73rd-minute. Guardado received a second yellow to even the playing field and Uruguay immediately responded, with center back Diego Godin heading in the resulting free-kick.
El Tri, then, turned into the team that looked down and out. They had barely managed anything in terms of offense in the second half—and star forward Javier Hernandez wasn't getting many looks—but they stayed in the game despite giving up the deflating goal and stuck around until the 85th-minute, when the ageless Marquez smashed a shot through the arms of a helpless Fernando Muslera. The mental fortitude and toughness Mexico showed in this comeback was impressive, and proved that they are genuine contenders for the championship.
All those crazy fans don't hurt their cause.
2. Uruguay might be in trouble
Actually, Uruguay probably aren't in much trouble. Venezuela and Jamaica don't appear to be good enough to steal second in the group. But things aren't exactly peachy in Oscar Tabarez's camp.
When they gave up that crucial goal to Marquez, it pretty much ruined any chance Uruguay had of finishing first in the group. The players must have been aware of that, judging from their reaction to the goal. Godin, Edinson Cavani, Muslera and others threw an absolute hissy fit at the referees with Godin earning a yellow card for dissent as a result. They continued whining and yelling even after the game was finished, pelting the officials with complaints until they were escorted to the locker room.
Injured star striker Luis Suarez, usually the one throwing a temper tantrum, gave the refs respectful handshakes at midfield after the game. It was not Enrique Caceres's fault that Uruguay lost that game.
Tabarez's side have some work to do. They need to start producing chances without Suarez in the lineup, and although they probably will be able to make it through the group stage without many problems, they don't look championship-caliber right now.
3. Jamaica aren't as good as we think they are
Remember last year's Gold Cup, when Jamaica surprised everyone and managed to pull off an upset of the US in the semifinal? Yeah, that Jamaica side has gone missing.
There were holdovers from last year's team who played for the Reggae Boyz on Sunday. Giles Barnes, Wes Morgan (for 50 minutes), Jobi McAnuff, Je-Vaughn Watson, Kemar Lawrence, Adrian Mariappa, Rodolph Austin, Garath McCleary, and Michael Hector each made appearances in both games. But Jamaica didn't play anything like their Gold Cup-selves against Venezuela.
In a game that they needed to win to have a serious chance at advancing out of the group stage, they struggled, giving up an early goal and getting red carded in the 23rd-minute. Coach Winfried Schafer was sent off at halftime and Jamaica would limp to a 1-0 loss despite plenty of chances to equalize in the second half. The only positive the Reggae Boyz can take from the match was that Andre Blake played very well in goal; aside from that, they'll be disappointed with the result.
They will likely have to grab three points from Mexico on Wednesday in order to stay alive in the group.