Mexico's preparations for next month's crunch World Cup qualifier against the United States have been dealt a blow after a 3-2 defeat to Ecuador in an international friendly in Charlotte.

Walter Chala, making his second international appearance, scored the 75th-minute winner two minutes after coming off the bench for an under-strength Ecuador.

Both sides were missing several key Europe-based players, although that did not detract from an entertaining encounter, where three goals were scored in the opening quarter of an hour.

Jhonny Quinonez opened the scoring in the second minute when his scuffed bouncing effort beat Mexico goalkeeper Jonathan Orozco.

Mexico levelled four minutes when a fallen Santiago Gimenez, who had his initial effort blocked, flicked a ball across goal for Roberto Alvarado to tap home.

Ecuador restored their advantage when Washington Corozo worked a neat one-two with Toluca forward Michael Estrada, before bundling a shot past Orozco.

Mexico equalised again on the hour when Osvaldo Rodriguez rifled in a stunning left-foot strike from outside the box after Fernando Beltran's shot had been parried away.

Ecuador found the winner from a throw-in as debutant Djorkaeff Reasco flicked the ball back from the byline, allowing Chala to ghost in at the back post and finish with ease.

Jamaica played unbeaten on their way to winning the 2021 Fireminds Rugby Americas North Sevens in the Turks and Caicos Islands on Sunday.

Hector Moreno and Raul Jimenez helped Mexico re-claim their three-point lead in CONCACAF World Cup qualifying with a 2-0 win away to El Salvador on Wednesday.

Moreno headed in Jesus Corona's 30th-minute corner before Mexico star Jimenez rounded out the win with a penalty in the third minute of stoppage time.

Hirving Lozano put an early chance wide, while Osvaldo Rodriguez also pushed a header off target before Moreno broke the deadlock with a glancing effort which crept in at the back post.

Both sides were then reduced to 10 men, with El Salvador losing Mario Jacobo to a straight red card for a foul on Rogelio Funes Mori in the 48th minute.

Mexico saw Nestor Araujo sent off with 23 minutes remaining for a second bookable offence, ruling him out of next month's crucial qualifier against the United States in Cincinnati.

Wolves' Jimenez cushioned the victory with his late spot-kick having returned to the national team last month after suffering a serious head injury in November last year.

The win moved unbeaten Mexico to 14 points after six games, three points ahead of USA, who came from behind to beat Costa Rica 2-1 earlier on Wednesday.

Mexico moved top of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying with a comprehensive 3-0 defeat of 10-man Honduras on Sunday. 

It was not a routine fixture for Mexico, who lost at home to Honduras during qualifying for the 2014 and 2008 World Cups, but El Tri were up to the challenge at Azteca Stadium. 

The victory put Mexico on 11 points through five matches, three points clear of the United States and Panama after the USA's shock defeat in Panama City earlier on Sunday.

Sebastian Cordova opened the scoring in the 18th minute, driving home a shot from seven yards out with Honduras goalkeeper Luis Lopez out of position after a scramble around the goal. 

Four minutes into the second half, Honduras saw any realistic hopes of a comeback dashed when Maynor Figueroa drew a straight red card for a challenge on Raul Jimenez.

Rogelio Funes Mori provided a welcome cushion in the 76th minute, collecting a rebound from an Edson Alvarez shot that went off the post and driving it home for Mexico's second goal. 

Hirving Lozano sealed the win 10 minutes later as Mexico poured it on through the final whistle on the road to Qatar 2022.

 

Mexico and Canada played out a 1-1 draw in CONCACAF World Cup qualifying as El Tri failed to beat their emerging North American rivals for the first time in 13 years.

Not since 2008 had Mexico been unable to defeat Canada, a run of five consecutive victories across all competitions.

Mexico were forced to share the spoils with fellow unbeaten side Canada at the Azteca on Thursday after Jonathan Osorio cancelled out Jorge Sanchez's 21st-minute opener before half-time.

The result left Mexico level on eight points alongside the United States atop the standings in the final round of qualifying on the road to Qatar 2022, two points ahead of third-placed Canada through four matchdays.

Tata Martino's Mexico opened the scoring through Sanchez, who controlled Hirving Lozano's pass beautifully before finishing past Maxime Crepeau.

Canada were not overawed away from home – Alphonso Davies almost restored parity in the 31st minute but the ball was cleared from the Bayern Munich star's feet at the last moment with the goal at his mercy.

Osorio did equalise for Canada three minutes prior to the interval, finishing expertly beyond Guillermo Ochoa having been played through by Davies.

The second half was eventful, with play halted momentarily due to crowd chants, while Canada defender Alistair Johnson headed the ball onto his own crossbar as Ochoa produced an important save 12 minutes from the end.

The Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) petitioned the Jamaican government to allow some fans into the National Stadium for upcoming home World Cup qualifiers.

The Reggae Boyz will be back in action next month when they tackle the United States on October 7 and play their second home game of the qualifiers against Canada.  The Jamaicans had a chastening start to their home campaign, following a 3-0 home loss to Panama earlier this month.

Due to existing coronavirus protocols, the match was, however, played in front of an empty stadium.  The JFF, however, hopes to have at least some fans for next month’s second round.  Based on the local football body’s proposal only a limited number of fans will be allowed to attend the match, and they must provide proof of vaccination in order to be able to do so.

The Reggae Boyz, who are looking to get to the World Cup for the first time in over 23 years, find themselves at the bottom of the eight-team group after the first three games.  The Boyz opened with a 2-1 loss away to Mexico before the damaging 3-0 home loss to Panama.  The team, however, got the board with a 1-1 draw away to Costa Rica.

Central and South American players who were barred from travelling to World Cup qualifiers by their Premier League teams will be available this weekend after their countries backed down from a request to ban them under FIFA rules. 

Players from Brazil, Mexico, Chile and Paraguay are cleared to play as their national federations agreed late Friday to waive a measure that would have compelled the players to sit out after their clubs refused to release them for international duty. 

Premier League teams last month decided to prevent players from nations on the United Kingdom's COVID-19 "red list" to participate in Qatar 2022 qualifiers, citing the UK's requirement that people who have travelled to those countries quarantine for 10 days upon their return. 

There had been some indications earlier Friday that the players might be available, but official word did not come down until shortly before midnight London time. 

Brazilians now available to their clubs Saturday include Ederson and Gabriel Jesus of Manchester City, Chelsea's Thiago Silva and Manchester United's Fred. 

Among players from other nations involved, Wolves can use Mexico's Raul Jimenez on Saturday, while Newcastle will have Paraguay's Miguel Almiron available, and Watford can play Chile's Francisco Sierralta 

Liverpool will be most relieved, with Alisson, Fabinho and Roberto Firmino cleared to face Raphina and Leeds on Sunday. 

Earlier Friday, Jurgen Klopp said at a news conference that he hoped a solution could be reached for the benefit of all parties involved. 

"It is a really difficult situation and really tricky for all the clubs, and the players especially," Klopp said. "We should not forget at this moment that the players wanted to play these games, the clubs wanted to let the players go but it was not possible."

Jesus Corona salvaged a 1-1 draw away to Panama as Mexico dropped points for the first time in 2022 CONCACAF World Cup qualifying.

Mexico had won their opening two Octagonal fixtures to sit top of the CONCACAF standings on the road to Qatar 2022.

But Panama and Mexico shared the points at Estadio Rommel Fernandez Gutierrez in Panama City on Wednesday.

Panama – also unbeaten – had suffered four consecutive defeats to Mexico since earning a goalless draw against El Tri in World Cup qualifying in 2016.

However, hosts Panama opened the scoring through Rolando Blackburn approaching the half-hour mark in the 28th minute.

Mexico – again without head coach Tata Martino following eye surgery – had their chances in the opening half, but it was not until the 76th minute that El Tri found the back of the net.

After Sebastian Cordova hit the post, Corona was on hand to convert the rebound with a curled effort past Panama goalkeeper Luis Mejia.

Mexico preserved their 100 per cent record in CONCACAF World Cup qualifying after edging Costa Rica 1-0 away from home.

Orbelin Pineda converted a penalty in first-half stoppage time and it proved to be enough on Sunday as Mexico made it two wins from two games in the Octagonal section of qualifying on the road to Qatar 2022.

Mexico head coach Gerardo Martino did not travel to Costa Rica after undergoing eye surgery and assistant Jorge Teller deputised in the absence of the former Barcelona and Argentina boss.

El Tri were underwhelming in their opening 2-1 win over Jamaica and they made another timid start on the road – Mexico goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa forced into a save to deny Costa Rica captain Bryan Ruiz.

Mexico had a great chance to break the deadlock three minutes later in the 18th minute after Rogelio Funes Mori found himself in a one-on-one situation with Keylor Navas, who thwarted the forward from close range.

Visiting Mexico did draw first blood on the stroke of half-time – Pineda scoring from the spot after Bryan Oviedo was penalised for a foul on Andres Guardado.

Costa Rica continued to push numbers forward and almost salvaged a point at the death, however, Keysher Fuller's 92nd-minute effort rattled the woodwork.

Jamaica Reggae Boyz defender Damion Lowe has taken solace in the fight and effort shown by the team, despite a late loss away to Mexico in the opening round of World Cup qualifiers, and is confident it augurs well for the team going forward.

The Jamaica national team seemed well on its way to securing an unlikely point at the renowned Azteca stadium, after a 65th minute Shamar Nicholson strike brought them on level terms.  It was, however, not to be as Mexico’s Henry Martin restored the home team’s advantage in the 89th minute.

The result left the disappointed Jamaican’s without a point, but having headed into the game without some of its first-team players being available the battling display at a venue where not many come away with anything could serve as a sign of encouragement.

“We are disappointed with the result but with the performance, the guys put out there, yes there is always room for more, but the guys showed lots of character,” Lowe said.

“The guys fought hard and that’s going to separate team getting points and qualifying for the World Cup, rather than just losing a game or buckling and being afraid,” he added.

The team’s best result at the venue was a 0-0 draw in the 2013 qualifying campaign, Jamaica will look to bounce back against Panama in their first home game of the qualifiers, at the country’s National Stadium.

Jamaica Reggae Boyz forward, Shamar Nicholson, has insisted a goal inside the world-famous Azteca stadium was scant consolation as the team was extremely disappointed to lose late on to Mexico in the opening round of the World Cup qualifiers.

On Wednesday, Nicholson’s well-taken equaliser, scored in the 65th minute, gave the less than full-strength team plenty of belief that they could leave Mexico with at least a share of the spoils.

Although they seemed well on their way to doing so, those hopes were cruelly dashed with less than five minutes remaining when Henry Martin put away an opportunistic finish in the 89th minute.

“It was devastating, to lose the game with just five minutes remaining was really shocking for the team,” Nicholson said.

“The good thing is we don’t have much to think about the game that has passed.  The main focus is the one coming up on Sunday.”

The team will be eager to bounce back with maximum points against Panama at the country’s National Stadium on Sunday.  Their central American opponents have proven stubborn opposition in the past, however, and Jamaica has won just 2 of its last eight games against them.  Jamaica did win the last encounter between the teams, a 1-0 triumph at the 2019 Gold Cup.  The Boyz will also be buoyed by the return to line-up of several of its UK-based contingent who were unable to take part in the Mexico fixture due to the country's UK travel red-list status.

 

Mexico clinched the start they wanted, opening their CONCACAF World Cup qualifying campaign with a dramatic 2-1 win over Jamaica. 

Henry Martin's 89th-minute strike was the difference at an empty Estadio Azteca, helping El Tri avoid an embarrassing result as they look to secure a spot at Qatar 2022. 

Mexico dominated possession throughout Thursday's fixture and out-shot Jamaica 27-5, but Reggae Boyz goalkeeper Andre Blake thwarted the hosts until Martin's last-gasp winner. 

A botched clearance by Jamaica in the 50th minute left the ball at Alexis Vega's feet, with multiple Mexico players in an offside position, he held the ball and worked his way toward the middle of the field along the top of the penalty area before sending a right-footed shot past a diving Blake.

Shamar Nicholson equalised 15 minutes later for Jamaica, firing a shot past Guillermo Ochoa after a poor clearance by Jorge Sanchez. 

Martin gave Mexico the three points in the end, collecting a pass from Luis Romo that was redirected by Cesar Montes and firing home just inside the top of the area.

An understrength Jamaica Reggae Boyz will begin their bid to return to the FIFA World for the first time in 23 years with a match at the world-renowned Estadio Azteca, against familiar opponents Mexico, on Thursday.

In response to the UK’s quarantine rules, as it relates to travel to nations that have been added to the red list, the English Premier and English Football Leagues made the decision to not release players for World Cup Qualifiers in those countries.

The league’s issues stem from a mandatory 10-day quarantine period that players would have to undergo once they return to England.  The stipulation would see players missing at least two games with possibly more time required to get up to fitness standards.  

 While Jamaica itself remains in the amber zone, which involves much less stringent restrictions, Mexico and Costa Rica who the team will face in away contests this round are both in the red zone.

In response, the Jamaica Football Federation has named a large 35-man squad, with all the English-based players set to miss out on the fixtures against Mexico and Costa Rica.

The players based in the English leagues will rejoin the squad for the team’s match against Panama on Sunday, where among them West Ham striker Michail Antonio is expected to make his debut.

Against Mexico, at the Stadio Azteca, it has not been a happy hunting ground for the Jamaicans, who have drawn once and lost 5 times in 6 matches.  The team's lone point came in a 0-0 draw in 2013.

Despite not having a full-strength squad at his disposal, however, Theodore Whitmore, who was in charge of the team on that occasion believes the team could repeat the feat.

“I am very disappointed not having the full complement of players, but the show must go on. We know the challenges we face; we have a game to play. We have to prepare ourselves as best as possible going into this game,” Whitmore said.

“I wouldn't say pressure because every game the national team plays everybody expects positive results, good performances.  I don't think these games coming up are an exception. We are looking forward and we want to put the best team out there at all times and we are looking forward to a good result against the Mexico team.”

Mexico will also not have some of its top attacking players such as Raúl Jiménez, from EPL team Wolverhampton, and Hirving Lozano, from Napoli (Italy) and will also not have Héctor Herrera, from Atlético de Madrid, present in the midfield.  The Mexicans will also be forced to play in front of an empty stadium after being sanctioned by FIFA for homophobic chants earlier this year.  The match will kick off at 9:00 pm.

 

Jamaica Squad vs Mexico: Andre Blake (Philadelphia Union), Dillon Barnes (Queens Park Rangers), Dennis Taylor (Humble Lions), Damion Lowe (Al-lttihad), Adrian Mariappa (pending), Alvas Powell (Philadelphia Union), Kemar Lawrence (Toronto FC), Devon Williams (Miami FC), Junior Flemmings (Birmingham Legion), Cory Burke (Philadelphia Union), Shamar Nicholson (Charleroi), Oniel Fisher (LA Galaxy), Blair Turgott (Ostersund), Norman Campbell (FK Cukaricki), Ricardo Morris (Portmore United), Anthony Grant (Swindon Town), Tyreek Magee (Eupen), Lamar Walker (Miami FC), Peter Vassell (Indy Eleven), Javon East (Santos de Guápiles), Romario Williams (Qadsia SC), Javain Brown (Vancouver Whitecaps), Richard King (Cavalier).

Rest of squad: Michail Antonio (West Ham United), Leon Bailey (Aston Villa), Liam Moore (Reading FC), Amari’i Bell (Luton Town), Wesley Harding (Rotherham United), Ravel Morrison (Derby County), Daniel Johnson (Preston North End), Ethan Pinnock (Brentford City), Kevin Stewart (Blackpool), Bobby Reid (Fulham), Jamal Lowe (Swansea City), Kemar Roofe (Rangers).

Michail Antonio, Leon Bailey and Ravel Morrison will not be available for Jamaica’s World Cup qualifying opener against Mexico on Thursday as the Jamaica Football Federation tries to navigate a Covid-19 minefield laid by the United Kingdom and other European countries.

Cristiano Ronaldo is set to be playing back at Old Trafford again in 2021-22 after Manchester United confirmed they have reached an agreement with Juventus for the transfer of the Portugal great.

While personal terms, a medical and visa are still to be sorted out for Ronaldo, it would take something remarkable to stop him from joining now after a deal reportedly worth up to €23million (£19.7m) was agreed with Juve on Friday.

For a short while it looked as though Ronaldo – who had asked to leave the Bianconeri – was heading to Manchester City after they missed out on the signing of Harry Kane.

But apparent interventions from Ronaldo's former United manager Alex Ferguson and old team-mate Rio Ferdinand may have swung the race in the Red Devils' favour.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer seemed to open the door to Ronaldo during his news conference on Friday, and just a few hours later United confirmed a deal had been struck with Juventus.

Following confirmation of the deal, Stats Perform takes a look at greats who went back to their spiritual home, starting with the Portugal captain…

Cristiano Ronaldo – Manchester United

Ronaldo spent six years at Old Trafford during his last spell, arriving as a lanky teenager who probably averaged four stepovers per minute before leaving as a Ballon d'Or winner and an ice-cold finisher. His then-world record move to Real Madrid had been a long time coming and he spent nine years at the Santiago Bernabeu, becoming the club's all-time top scorer as he continued his transition from winger to out-and-out 'number nine'. There he won four Champions League titles before moving on to Juve, for whom he plundered 81 goals in 98 Serie A matches and picked up two Scudetti. But now he is all set for a return to England – whether he can match the standards he set last time remains to be seen, with his 31-goal haul of 2007-08 only bettered once in a 38-match season, though United fans will be convinced he can fire them to a first league title since Ferguson left.

 

Arjen Robben – Groningen

Robben's first retirement lasted just a single season, having announced last year he would be returning to his boyhood club Groningen for the 2020-21 campaign. Robben, now 37, initially brought an illustrious playing career to an end in July 2019 shortly after his 10-year spell with Bayern Munich finished. Although at the time he was linked with a potential return to the team that gave him his professional debut, Robben – who suffered with numerous injury problems throughout his career – opted to retire. He then caused something of a shock as he finally went back to the place where it all began, but once again injuries blighted his availability, restricting him to just seven Eredivisie appearances in 2020-21. Club director Mark-Jan Fledderus wanted him to stay on for another year, but when Robben said at the end of the season that he was going to have a long think about his future, the writing was seemingly on the wall. Another U-turn appears unlikely.

Juan Roman Riquelme – Argentinos Juniors

Perhaps more synonymous with Boca Juniors, where he made his professional debut and also spent most of his final years, Riquelme also had a strong affinity with Argentinos Juniors. He came through the club's academy in the early-to-mid 1990s, before then finishing his immense career at Estadio Diego Maradona in 2014, having also played for Barcelona, Villarreal and Argentina. Although the iconic attacking midfielder appeared close to joining Paraguay's Cerro Porteno the following year, the move never materialised.

Dirk Kuyt – Quick Boys

Kuyt briefly came out of retirement three years ago to help Quick Boys, with whom he spent 13 years as a youth. Playing in the Derde Divisie Saturday league, Kuyt was already working as assistant at the time, but made himself available for selection during a striker shortage and he made three appearances. The former Netherlands and Liverpool forward had retired the year before following a second spell with Feyenoord, where he had made his initial breakthrough in the mid-2000s, his form at the time earning a move to Anfield.

Rafael Marquez – Atlas

One of Mexico's greatest players, Marquez's longevity at such a high level was nothing short of incredible, as he accumulated 147 international caps. After breaking into the Atlas team as a teenager having come through their academy, the elegant centre-back enjoyed a sparkling career in Europe, winning 14 titles across spells with Monaco and Barcelona. Time with New York Red Bulls, Leon and Hellas Verona followed, before a final two-year stint back at the Jalisco ended in 2018. Although plagued by off-field allegations towards the end of his career, Marquez went on to become the club's sporting president, before standing down last in 2019 to focus on other areas of the sport. He was expected to be taking up a youth coaching role at Barca this season, but the deal ultimately fell through.

Henrik Larsson – Hogaborgs

While the Swedish club most may associate with Larsson is Helsingborgs, he actually made the breakthrough at a smaller side – Hogaborgs. It was here where he trained from the age of six, before eventually becoming a regular in the senior side and earning a move away. A trophy laden career followed, taking him to Feyenoord, Celtic, Barcelona and Manchester United. Although he retired in 2009, he returned to the pitch for Raa in the Swedish third tier three years later, before then finding himself back in the team at Hogaborgs in 2013, helping out due to an injury crisis despite him only previously being registered to a casual team for 'seniors'. This gave him the chance to play alongside his son, Jordan.

Carlos Tevez – Boca Juniors

The Tevez-Boca love affair has dominated most of the striker's successful and complex career. After coming through their youth ranks, the feisty forward was seen as the heir to Maradona. A brief stint in Brazil with Corinthians followed, but Europe had long since beckoned, even if West Ham was by no means the expected destination. He went on to play for Man Utd and City, increasing tension between the clubs, before then going to Juventus, but throughout this time Tevez seemed to long for a return to Boca. He went back to La Bombonera in 2015, his homecoming interrupted by a brief spell with Shanghai Shenhua in 2017 in the Chinese Super League, though even Tevez acknowledged he saw his time in China as a "holiday". "He filled Santa's sack with dollars and now he has returned to Boca," was Maradona's assessment upon 'El Apache's' return from the CSL. His third spell with Boca ended in June 2021 and it remains to be seen if he ever plays for another club.

Gianluigi Buffon – Parma

Buffon likes a comeback. Having returned for a second spell at Juventus in 2019, the goalkeeping great departed the club for a second time at the end of 2020-21. The Italy legend suggested he had not finished playing yet and Parma quickly emerged as a potential destination despite their recent relegation to Serie B. After a few weeks of contemplation, it was confirmed that Buffon was heading back to the club where he made his name. Now 43, the iconic stopper is wearing Gialloblu for the first time in 20 years, and he is set to remain with them until he turns 45, given he signed a two-year contract. What happens after that is anyone's guess but calling it a day with his first club could be a satisfyingly romantic conclusion to a remarkable career – that or he ends up at Juve again!

He is back where he belongs.
He is back home. #SupermanReturns @gianluigibuffon @Kyle_J_Krause @ParmaCalcio_en pic.twitter.com/bh2FO6P8YX

— Parma Calcio 1913 (@1913parmacalcio) June 17, 2021

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