Mexico clinched a spot in the CONCACAF Gold Cup quarterfinals after putting together its most convincing display of the tournament in a 3-1 Group A victory over Martinique.
Despite finishing second in Group A, one point behind winners Panama, El Tri advance to take on the second-place finisher from Group B in a quarterfinal to be held in Atlanta's Georgia Dome on Saturday, July 20.
Martinique will have to wait and see if they are among the two best third-place teams in the group stage. Should they make it through, they would travel to Baltimore to face the top team from Group C, a spot currently occupied by the USA.
After a lively, back-and-forth start which included a Raul Jimenez header that struck the crossbar, Marco Fabian put Mexico ahead in the 21st minute, cleaning up the rebound after a shot by teammate Rafael Marquez Lugo was saved by Martinique goalkeeper Kevin Olimpa.
Mexico threatened often during the first half, especially down the right flank with marauding right back Miguel Layun igniting the attack. But their second goal came via a central penetration.
Right midfielder Luis Montes pinched inside in the 34th minute, sidestepping a defender to bring the ball onto his favored left foot and blasting a 25-yard shot inside the left post for a 2-0 Mexico lead.
But Martinique, whose best look came on a 12th minute shot by midfielder Daniel Herelle after a Mexico turnover, found a way back into the match with a penalty kick just before halftime. Layun clipped forward Steve Gustan in the box and Kevin Parsemain coolly converted the spot kick to reduce the deficit.
But in the second half the French territory failed to trouble Mexico, who continued to apply the pressure only to be foiled by the Martinique offside trap and some desperate defending.
El Tri finally put the game out of reach in the final minute when California-born Miguel Ponce latched on to another cross by Layun just one minute after entering the match in the 88th minute.
The 3-1 final should help deflect some of the pressure on manager Jose Manuel "Chepo" de la Torre for previous lackluster displays as El Tri gets set for next weekend's single-elimination quarterfinal.