Diego Lainez dazzled as Mexico returned to winning ways ahead of the CONCACAF Gold Cup with a comfortable 3-0 victory over Panama in an international friendly in Nashville on Wednesday.

The Real Betis midfielder opened the scoring in the 21st minute for El Tri, before defender Cesar Montes' 57th-minute header made it 2-0.

Henry Martin worked a sublime one-two before a cool finish in second-half stoppage time to round out a strong win.

Mexico had lost last month's CONCACAF Nations League final on penalties to the United States, before a goalless friendly draw with Honduras.

Gerardo Martino's side made light work on Panama, who are currently ranked 78th in the world, ahead of the Gold Cup to be played in the US this month.

Montes hit the crossbar with an 18th minute header from a corner, but Lainez put them ahead three minutes.

Lainez raced onto a lofted diagonal ball from Luis Romo in acres of space, taking his time to slot on his left past Panama goalkeeper Jose Calderon.

Panama's Eric Davis fired a free-kick off target before Montes won another header from a corner which Calderon comfortably saved.

Montes made his next chance count, heading in from Alexis Vega's 57th-minute corner.

Mexico had a goal disallowed for offside when Jesus Ricardo Angulo squared for Uriel Antuna before Martin put the icing on the cake.

Jamaica’s Reggae Boyz will begin the Hexagonal final round of the CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers away to Mexico City at the famous Azteca Stadium.

Four days later they will host Panama at Kingston’s National Stadium, before travelling to Costa Rica two days later to close out the first round of games.

The opening round of games will take place between September 2-8.  The Jamaicans will be the only Caribbean team in the final round of the qualifiers.  The Reggae Boyz, along with Mexico, United States, Costa Rica, and Honduras automatically advanced to the final round based on their FIFA rankings.  Panama, Canada, and El Salvador took part in an additional round to reach the final stage.

A face-off against CONCACAF’s top-ranked team will be a tough start for the Jamaicans who will be looking to qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 1998.  The Jamaicans have never won a match at the venue but came away with a point from a 0-0 draw the last time the teams met there, in the qualifiers, in 2013. 

The game will, however, be hosted with no fans, after the team was ordered to play their next two official home games behind closed doors, as a consequence of anti-gay chants heard during matches against the Dominican Republic and the United States, played in Guadalajara on March 18 and 24.

The team was also fined $65,000 and further sanctions were threatened, including a possible points reduction.

 

 

CONCACAF Hexagonal Round fixtures

 Matchday 1 - Thursday, September 2

  • Canada vs. Honduras
  • United States vs. El Salvador
  • Panama vs. Costa Rica
  • Mexico vs. Jamaica

Matchday 2 - Sunday, September 6

  • United States vs. Canada
  • El Salvador vs. Honduras
  • Costa Rica vs. Mexico
  • Jamaica vs. Panama

Matchday 3 - Wednesday, September 8

  • Canada vs. El Salvador
  • Honduras vs. United States
  • Panama vs. Mexico
  • Costa Rica vs. Jamaica

Matchday 4 - Thursday, October 7

  • Mexico vs. Canada
  • Honduras vs. Costa Rica
  • El Salvador vs. Panama
  • United States vs. Jamaica

Matchday 5 - Sunday, October 10

  • Jamaica vs. Canada
  • Mexico vs. Honduras
  • Costa Rica vs. El Salvador
  • Panama vs. United States

Matchday 6 - Wednesday, October 13

  • Canada vs. Panama
  • Honduras vs. Jamaica
  • El Salvador vs. Mexico
  • United States vs. Costa Rica

Matchday 7 - Friday, November 12

  • Canada vs. Costa Rica
  • Honduras vs. Panama
  • El Salvador vs. Jamaica
  • United States vs. Mexico

Matchday 8 - Tuesday, November 16

  • Canada vs. Mexico
  • Costa Rica vs. Honduras
  • Panama vs. El Salvador
  • Jamaica vs. United States

Matchday 9 - Thursday, January 27, 2022

  • Honduras vs. Canada
  • United States vs. El Salvador
  • Costa Rica vs. Panama
  • Jamaica vs. Mexico

Matchday 10 - Sunday, January 30, 2022

  • Canada vs. United States
  • Honduras vs. El Salvador
  • Mexico vs. Costa Rica
  • Panama vs. Jamaica

Matchday 11 - Wednesday, February 2, 2022

  • El Salvador vs. Canada
  • United States vs. Honduras
  • Mexico vs. Panama
  • Jamaica vs. Costa Rica

Matchday 12 - Thursday, March 24, 2022

  • Costa Rica vs. Canada
  • Panama vs. Honduras
  • Jamaica vs. El Salvador
  • Mexico vs. United States

Matchday 13 - Sunday, March 27, 2022

  • Canada vs. Jamaica
  • Honduras vs. Mexico
  • El Salvador vs. Costa Rica
  • United States vs. Panama

Matchday 14 - Wednesday, March 30, 2022

  • Panama vs. Canada
  • Jamaica vs. Honduras
  • Mexico vs. El Salvador
  • Costa Rica vs. United States

In a move that football purists, romanticists and aficionados of 1990s Serie A will be excited by, Gianluigi Buffon is returning to Parma after 20 years away.

Buffon came through the club's academy in the early '90s and made 220 appearances for them in all competitions, winning the Coppa Italia, Supercoppa Italiana and UEFA Cup during a six-year spell in the first-team.

Juventus made Buffon the world's most-expensive goalkeeper at the time when they paid €52million for him in 2001 and he played 685 times for them across two spells, 20 short of Alessandro Del Piero's club record.

Nevertheless, Buffon's longevity has ensured he is the record holder for the most Serie A appearances (657) and titles (10) in the league's history.

After leaving Juve at the end of the 2020-21 season, it was unclear what would be next for Buffon, but links with Parma began to stir despite their relegation to Serie B.

And on Thursday the club confirmed Buffon is back. While the days of challenging for major honours are long gone for Parma, the goalkeeping great represents a coup and the kind of transfer that tugs at heartstrings.

In honour of Buffon's momentous return, Stats Perform takes a look at other greats who've gone back to their spiritual home to close out their career.

Arjen Robben - Groningen

Arjen Robben's retirement lasted just a single season, as the Netherlands and Bayern Munich great announced last year that he was 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 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 season, restricting him to just seven Eredivisie appearances. It's unclear if he'll play on into 2021-22, though either way it's safe to assume Groningen will be where he retires once and for all.

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 is expected to be taking up a youth coaching role at Barca next season.

Juan Pablo Angel - Atletico Nacional

Angel perhaps never quite lived up to the expectations he set during his early days as part of River Plate's so-called 'Fantastic Four' with Javier Saviola, Ariel Ortega and Pablo Aimar, having joined from Colombia's Nacional. Nevertheless, he became a fan favourite at Aston Villa in the Premier League, before spending six years in MLS with New York Red Bulls, Los Angeles Galaxy and Chivas USA. In 2013 he returned to Nacional for two seasons, having left them in 1997. He called it quits in late 2014, just a few days after losing to his former club River in the final of the Copa Sudamericana. "I am ending my career with a final between the two clubs I love the most," he said.

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 to Helsingborgs. 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 Manchester United and Manchester 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, though it remains to be seen if he ever plays for another club.

Mexico fired a blank as El Tri were held to a 0-0 draw by Honduras ahead of the upcoming CONCACAF Gold Cup.

Tata Martino's Mexico were taking to the field for the first time since their thrilling 3-2 extra-time defeat to rivals the United States in the inaugural Nations League final last week.

Saturday's international friendly served as preparation for the Gold Cup, which gets underway in the USA on July 10.

Mexico are the defending champions, but they have work to do following their goalless draw with Honduras in front of a huge crowd in Atlanta.

With more than 70,000 fans in attendance at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Mexico had the two best chances of the match.

Carlos Rodriguez rattled the crossbar with a powerful strike in the 30th minute, while Uriel Antuna found himself unmarked in the second minute of stoppage time but saw his header sail wide.

Mexico will face Panama (June 30) and Nigeria (July 3) before opening their Gold Cup campaign on July 10.

El Tri have been drawn in Group A, alongside El Salvador and Curacao, with Mexico also set to face the winner of the preliminary match.

Christian Pulisic scored a 114th-minute penalty and substitute goalkeeper Ethan Horvath saved a spot-kick six minutes later as the United States overcame Mexico 3-2 after extra time in a stunning inaugural CONCACAF Nations League final.

Poster boy Pulisic, who ended the 2020-21 campaign as a Champions League winner with Chelsea, converted deep into the second period of extra time after Carlos Salcedo was penalised for a foul following a VAR review on Sunday.

Mexico had the chance to force a penalty shoot-out six minutes later after receiving a spot-kick of their own via VAR, but Horvath – a replacement for injured star Zack Steffen in the 69th minute – denied Andres Guardado.

Extra time was needed after the Nations League decider finished 2-2 at the end of 90 absorbing minutes in Denver, where Jesus Corona's first-minute opener was cancelled out by Giovanni Reyna approaching the half-hour mark.

Mexico thought they had won the trophy thanks to substitute Diego Lainez in the 79th minute but Juventus midfielder Weston McKennie equalised three minutes later to send the match to extra time.

CONACAF Gold Cup holders Mexico were gifted a dream start inside a minute when Mark McKenzie's pass across the penalty area was played into the path of Corona, who fired powerfully past Steffen.

USA looked vulnerable defensively after the self-inflicted wound, though Josh Sargent managed to test Ochoa three minutes later.

Mexico thought they doubled the lead in the 24th minute after Hector Moreno found himself unmarked as he headed home Hector Herrera's delivery, but it was ruled offside following a VAR review.

That was a massive sigh of relief for USA, who went up the other end and equalised two minutes later via Reyna after McKennie's header had rattled the post.

Hirving Lozano wasted a golden chance to restore Mexico's lead two minutes before half-time – the Napoli forward beat the offside trap to find himself in a one-on-one situation with Steffen, but the City goalkeeper was quick off his line.

Mexico continued to be a threat in the second half, however Tata Martino's men had nothing to show for their efforts.

Sargent wasted a great opportunity to put the USA ahead just past the hour mark, but his rebound after Ochoa spilled McKenzie's long-range effort went over the bar.

Ochoa produced a magnificent save to keep the match on level terms, the Mexico goalkeeper diving to keep out McKennie's header with 19 minutes remaining.

Mexico introduced Lainez in the 78th minute and it proved an inspired substitution after drifting onto his left foot and firing into the back of the net a minute later, but the lead lasted just three minutes as McKennie restored parity with a header from a corner.

Extra time was needed, and VAR played a huge role in the second half of the additional period – USA firstly awarded a penalty in the 114th minute following Salcedo foul at the conclusion of a review.

VAR then ruled that McKenzie handled the ball inside the box the 120th minute, but Guardado saw his penalty saved by Horvath in wild scenes.

Mexico goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa was the hero as El Tri prevailed 5-4 on penalties against Costa Rica to set up a showdown with rivals the United States in the inaugural CONCACAF Nations League final.

After Thursday's semi-final ended 0-0 at the end of 90 minutes, Ochoa produced the decisive save in the shoot-out to deny Allan Cruz in Denver and send Mexico through to the blockbuster final on Sunday.

CONCACAF Gold Cup holders Mexico – missing injured star Raul Jimenez – drew a blank across 90 minutes and had missed their first penalty via Uriel Antuna.

Hirving Lozano, Orbelin Pineda, Alan Pulido, Luis Romo and Jesus Gallardo all converted their ensuing spot-kicks, after Oscar Duarte missed for Costa Rica, before Ochoa's crucial intervention diving to his right to save Cruz's effort.

The win continues Mexico's dominance over Costa Rica, winning all three shoot-outs and their past nine encounters, dating back to 2013.

Lozano almost spectacularly opened the scoring in the eighth minute with a right-foot overhead kick, which hit the crossbar after a touch from Leonel Moreira – who was deputising for absent Paris Saint-Germain goalkeeper Keylor Navas.

Diego Lainez came close for Mexico with a drilled shot going narrowly wide 12 minutes later against Costa Rica.

Costa Rica created chances of their own, with former Arsenal forward Joel Campbell setting up Keysher Fuller for an angled shot which was blocked by Ochoa.

Bryan Ruiz and Costa Rica team-mate Campbell combined, with the crafty Alonso Martinez shooting off target on his left foot on the half-hour mark.

Mexico almost broke the deadlock shortly before half-time after a clever dummy from Henry Martin opened up a side-foot chance for Hector Herrera but Moreira was up to the task.

Martinez muscled his way into the box but blazed a deflected shot wide after the break, while Herrera produced a powerful 57th-minute strike from range which stung Moreira's palms, before the game went to penalties.

Hirving Lozano's last-gasp header earned Mexico a 1-0 friendly victory over Costa Rica on Tuesday.

Costa Rica's goal lived a charmed life throughout the meeting in Austria, though it appeared Keylor Navas and company had done enough to keep Mexico at bay.

Indeed, Mexico's luck seemed out when Lozano and Orbelin Pineda both hit the crossbar in the 73rd minute, either side of Paris Saint-Germain goalkeeper Navas making a superb stop on the line to deny Hector Moreno.

Yet fortune ultimately favoured Gerardo Martino's side – who had 18 attempts but only hit the target three times – with Lozano turning in Luis Romo's flick-on in the 89th minute before a dreadful miss from Allan Cruz at the other end settled the contest.

The Football Association of Wales (FAW) is in dialogue with police after Ben Cabango and Rabbi Matondo were subjected to racist abuse on social media.

Swansea City defender Cabango and winger Matondo, who was loaned out by Schalke to Stoke this season, revealed they were targeted after playing for Wales in a 1-0 friendly win over Mexico on Saturday.

The FAW on Sunday vowed to do all in its powers to bring those responsible to justice.

"The Football Association of Wales (FAW) is disgusted by the racial abuse received by national team players via social media after last night's game," the governing body stated.

"Racism and all forms of discriminatory behaviour are wholly unacceptable and the FAW condemns it completely.

"The FAW are in dialogue with South Wales Police to ensure this kind of abhorrent behaviour is reported and investigated.

"The FAW joins other national associations and clubs in urging social media platforms and regulatory authorities to take stronger, more effective and urgent action against this despicable behaviour."

Kieffer Moore scored the only goal of the game as Wales secured a 1-0 friendly win over Mexico on Saturday. 

Wales changed all 11 players from their 3-1 World Cup qualifying defeat to Belgium on Wednesday, but the new-look XI acquitted themselves superbly against a side ranked ninth in the world. 

The decisive goal came after just 11 minutes, Moore controlling Jonny Williams' pass before rolling past Guillermo Ochoa.

That was Cardiff City striker Moore's fifth goal in 14 appearances for Wales – at least two more than any other Welshman since his debut in September 2019. 

Hirving Lozano went close for the visitors in the second half, but Wales – for whom Chris Gunter became the first player to reach 100 appearances – held on to secure a first-ever win over Mexico at the fifth attempt.

Chris Gunter has been lauded as "a manager's dream" by Wales caretaker boss Robert Page ahead of the full-back winning his 100th international cap.

Charlton Athletic defender Gunter will bring up the landmark when Wales take on Mexico in a friendly at Cardiff City Stadium on Saturday.

Gunter is the first Welshman to achieve the feat, and will be six clear of goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey, who is next on the list of Wales' most-capped players, ahead of Neville Southall (92) and Gareth Bale (87).

The 31-year-old made his debut in 2007, and Page, who is standing in as Wales boss due to Ryan Giggs' suspension, was full of praise for Gunter.

"I keep saying that every time I work with him, I'm more impressed," said Page.

"He's a model professional, he is a manager's dream. He just gets on with his work, he trains as he plays and he's thoroughly deserved his 100 caps and all the credit he's going to get from having achieved that.

"Good people in the game, you want to see them do well and he's certainly one of them."

For his part, Gunter said it was difficult to describe the emotion of his achievement.

"It's tough to put into words. If you asked me potentially afterwards then there might be something a bit more emotional," he said.

"I'm very proud, it means the world to me to represent the country and do what I know so many people would love to do.

"It's something you never take for granted. You've given your life to hopefully performing for your country."

The omens for Gunter marking the milestone with a win are not great, however. This will be the fifth meeting between the teams, with Wales yet to register a victory.

Indeed, Wales have not scored in either of their last two matches against Mexico, with the last Welshman to net against them John Charles in a May 1962 friendly.

Wales lost to Belgium in their opening World Cup qualifier on Wednesday, with the Czech Republic next up on Tuesday.

Asked if he had discussed the performance with Giggs, Page said: "Absolutely, I spoke with Ryan, of course.

"He was pleased with the second half. We made the change at half-time to be a little bit more positive in our press, get a little bit higher up the pitch and we just didn't want to camp on the edge of our box and allow attack after attack and he absolutely agreed with that.

"There's aspects that he's pleased with and things we can do better on but overall he was pleased."

It remains unclear as to whether Giggs will be in charge when the Euros roll around, though Page insists he is not focusing on taking the role for the tournament.

"No. I'm not interested in that," he added. "It's for other people to make those decisions, we're not worrying about that."

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