The Group Stage:
Mexico started the tournament in Group C, which was completed by Guadeloupe, Panama and Nicaragua. The first group games saw Mexico beat Nicaragua 2-0 and Guadeloupe beat Panama 2-1. Arsenal starlet Carlos Véla started the game against Nicaragua but he failed to make it past the 10-minute mark after a crunching tackle left the youngster needing treatment. Véla was replaced by Medina amid speculation that he had fractured his fibula.
After further examination the doctors realised that Véla had just sustained a sprain and he was back jogging before their second game. With head coach Javier Aguirre erring on the side of caution, Carlos did not participate in the remaining group games. The diminutive forward watched on as his country drew with Panama 1-1 and beat Guadeloupe 2-0 to secure top spot in the group and a quarterfinal game against Haiti.
The Knockout stages:
Hopes were high that Carlos might return in the quarterfinal but with the team on such good form, Aguirre made just one change, re-calling the tournaments top scorer Miguel Sabah. The decision was justified as the Cruz Azul striker scored a brace in a 4-0 thrashing that saw want-away Spurs attacker Giovani Dos Santos make two and score one. Costa Rica overturned Guadeloupe 5-1 to set up a semi-final with Mexico.
The match was closely competed and Véla had to wait until the 81st minute for his introduction as Aguirre tried everything he could to break the deadlock. In the 88th minute Aguirre got what he wanted as Franco scored, only for Costa Rica to equalise in the 90th minute through Ledezma. This took the game into extra time where neither team could find a breakthrough; onwards to penalties.
After Ledezma missed Costa Rica’s third penalty, it was left for Carlos to score Mexico’s 5th penalty to put the Mexicans through with a 100% record from the spot. He coolly slotted the ball left side, sending the keeper the wrong way to secure a spot in the final against the holders; the U.S.A.
Hopes were high for Véla’s inclusion in the team for the final but he had to settle for a place in the bench. The first 45 minutes were a relatively quiet affair but with the introduction of Carlos in the 46th minute, the game opened up. Giovanni Dos Santos, who won the most valuable player award for the tournament, was dragged down in the box allowing captain Gerardo Torrado to convert the resulting penalty. Timing his run perfectly, Véla burst in behind the defence and cut back for Sabah and after his shot was initially saved, Dos Santos slotted home to make it two. Moments later Carlos was on the score sheet himself after a perfectly weighted ball from Dos Santos played Véla in to chip delightfully over the oncoming goalkeeper just inside the far post. Véla then turned provider sliding a tidy pass through for José Antonio Castro to slot home. Finally Guillermo Franco powered home from outside the box to round off a 5-0 win for the Mexicans, securing their fifth title.
Carlos was undeniably one of the best performers in the tournament; if an injury hadn’t hindered his participation in the group games and subsequently cost him a place in the starting line-up, then the Arsenal man may even have challenged for the golden boot or other individual honours. Véla did however; prove time and time again to be a game changer, coming off of the bench, which bodes well for the upcoming season. With his quick feet and silky movement, Carlos has the ability to significantly change a game and in the wake of Adebayor’s departure, he will be hoping for more opportunities to do so for Arsenal.
The Group Stage: