Luis Hernandez scored a golden goal in sudden-death extra time on Thursday to give Mexico a 1-0 win over Jamaica and a place in tomorrow's Concacaf Gold Cup final. They will face the - unexpected winners over Brazil in the other semi-final on Tuesday.
Hernandez could have won it for Mexico with just two minutes to go in normal time, but his powerful header hit the bar with Jamaica's goalkeeper, Warren Barrett, well beaten. But he made no mistake with another forceful header late in the first period of extra time in front of 45,507 fans in the Los Angeles Coliseum.
The result was a disappointment for the "Reggae Boyz" of Jamaica, who had surprised many fans by winning their first-round group in the tournament. They had been beaten 6-0 by Mexico in a World Cup qualifying match last year, but later held the Mexicans to a 0-0 draw in Kingston.
In tomorrow's third-place match, which precedes the final in the Coliseum, the Jamaicans face Brazil, with whom they drew 0-0 in their opening match at the tournament. The world champions have also been held by Guatemala and have only managed to beat El Salvador at the Gold Cup.
Tuesday's Gold Cup semi- final loss to the caused some serious indignation back home in Brazil.
"A defeat to be ashamed of," read a headline in the Rio de Janeiro newspaper O Globo after Brazil's first defeat to the Americans.
"Nightmare in the wee hours," declared the sporting daily Lance, referring to the game's 2am starting time in Brazil. "What nobody believed could happen, happened."
However, more sober observers did put the defeat in perspective. Although Romario was on the field, and was regularly thwarted by a brilliant display from the Leicester City goalkeeper, Kasey Keller, Brazil were without Ronaldo and about half of their regular starting line-up.
Berti Vogts, the coach of Germany, whose side meet Brazil in a friendly in Stuttgart on 25 March, said: "What the Brazilians were doing in the Gold Cup was having a holiday. They have the best team of all time. They don't play football, they celebrate football."
The biggest shock so far at the African Nations' Cup in Burkina Faso came on Thursday, when unfancied Togo beat one of the favourites for the title, Ghana.
Mohamed Coubadja-Toure struck a spectacular solo goal in injury time to give Togo a 2-1 win in a first-round Group B fixture. Franck Dote had given Togo the lead in the 26th minute and, thanks to a brilliant display from their goalkeeper Nibombe Wake, they held out until Samuel Johnson equalised with an 83rd-minute penalty.
The Nations' Cup holders, South Africa, have been in poor form so far, having been held to draws by both Angola and Ivory Coast. The group fixtures conclude on Tuesday, with the quarter-finals starting on Friday.
116 days... and counting until the World Cup finals begin in France
Tomorrow Japan play their first friendly since they qualified for France 98 by beating Iran in an Asian Zone play-off in November. They meet Australia in Adelaide, in what is widely expected to be Terry Venables' last match in charge of the Socceroos. His Japanese counterpart, Takeshi Okada, has a squad of 40 players all desperate to make the final World Cup squad of 22. "Being the off season for the J-League, many of the players may not be at their peak just yet but the competition for places in the final World Cup team is enough motivation to spur the players on," he said yesterday. He added that Australia's physical strength was the most worrying aspect for his side as they prepared for tomorrow's match.