Eight months and two coaches after Mexico missed out on an embarrassing World Cup, most of the same players lifted the CONCACAF Gold Cup triumphantly amid confetti and raucous cheers on Sunday night.

El Tri has turned their fortunes around with astonishing speed, and their game-winner at SoFi Stadium came on a run-in that was just as dramatic.

Late substitute Santiago Giménez scored after an electrifying sprint in the 88th minute, and Mexico won the Gold Cup for a record ninth time with a 1-0 victory over Panama.

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Players from Mexico celebrate with the winners trophy after beating Panama 1-0 after the CONCACAF Gold Cup Final on Sunday, July 16, 2023, in Inglewood, California. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

After Edson Álvarez slid to block an Iván Anderson cross in the Mexico penalty area, Orbelín Pineda dribbled and made a terrific pass into the central area. Giménez, the 22-year-old Feyenoord forward, dribbled past Harold Cummings and past Cummings and Fidel Escobar in the penalty area.

Giménez fired a left-footed shot that bounced off goalkeeper Orlando Mosquera for his fourth goal in 18 international appearances and his second of the tournament.

«It’s the biggest moment of my career,» Gimenez said. «I just tried to move quickly up the field. We followed our principles throughout the game and they worked perfectly. The result was great, because there were a lot of competitive teams in this tournament.»

The goal by Argentina’s Giménez, who came on just three minutes earlier, sparked a frenzy of celebration in a packed Southern California stadium of fans celebrating Mexico’s rebirth in this biennial CONCACAF tournament. After Mexico was eliminated in the group stage of the World Cup for the first time since 1978, El Tri bounced back with an excellent tournament under interim coach Jaime Lozano, who took over the beleaguered program just a month ago. after a Nations League loss to the USA

«Today the atmosphere was like being in a World Cup,» said Lozano, whose contract is for this tournament only. “It wasn’t like a Gold Cup. I’m dreaming after seeing a stadium like the one we saw today, and giving people the happiness we’ve seen. Again, the team gave it their all. We knew we were writing history. , and you have to take advantage of these opportunities.»

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Cesar Montes lifts trophy

Mexico’s Cesar Montes raises the winners’ trophy after beating Panama 1-0 in the CONCACAF Gold Cup Final on Sunday, July 16, 2023, in Inglewood, California. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

Mexico, which has allowed just two goals in its matches, has won this tournament more than all other nations combined. The United States has seven Gold Cup titles and Canada one.

Gimenez’s heroics capped off an inspiring Gold Cup led by Panama, who defeated the USA in the semifinals to earn their third appearance in the final. Los Canaleros were unable to get several solid scoring chances against veteran Mexican goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa.

Panama also lost the Gold Cup final in 2005 and 2013, both against the US.

«We gave everything we had,» coach Thomas Christiansen said through a translator. “The team died standing up. There is nothing I can regret about my players. Some people remove the medals (after the game) when they are runners-up, but I told them that they should be proud of the achievements for the football they played. «

While the Gold Cup is known for featuring half-filled national teams, Mexico began the final with eight starters who also started at last year’s World Cup.

Mexico dominated the game for most of the first half with 14 shots, but Panama defended ably. Henry Martín appeared to put Mexico ahead in the 33rd minute with a close goal, but a video review several minutes after the play found him offside.

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Santiago Giménez celebrates with his partner

Mexico’s Santiago Gimenez (11) celebrates with a teammate after a 1-0 victory over Panama during the CONCACAF Gold Cup final soccer match on Sunday, July 16, 2023 in Inglewood, California. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Pineda and Martín had tempting chances in the 43rd minute, but Mosquera saved their consecutive shots from point-blank range.

Panama had their best scoring opportunity shortly after halftime, but Alberto Quintero headed in just wide of the far post. Edgar Bárcenas had another good chance in the 87th minute, but he missed outside the area.

Moments later, Giménez scored his most important goal for Mexico and gave fans hope that he will be the centerpiece of a new generation of Mexican talent.

Lozano, who led Mexico’s Olympic team to a bronze medal in Tokyo two years ago, was hired to lead the Gold Cup campaign by Juan Carlos Rodríguez, who took office as president of the Mexican Soccer Federation just a month earlier. Mexico’s World Cup disappointment led to the departure of coach Tata Martino and the brief tenure of Diego Cocca before the arrival of Lozano, who relied heavily on the core of his Olympic team in the Gold Cup.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino congratulated Lozano onstage and wished him luck for the 2026 World Cup cycle, unaware that Lozano’s contract has already expired.

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Players from Mexico celebrate

Players from Mexico celebrate with the winners trophy after beating Panama 1-0 after the CONCACAF Gold Cup Final on Sunday, July 16, 2023, in Inglewood, California. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

«I would love to be here,» Lozano said. «It’s a dream to lead my national team in the World Cup, specifically a World Cup that is going to be hosted by Mexico and (the United States and Canada). If it’s me, I’m going to have to work hard with my coaching staff. If it’s not me, I’m going to support the team.»

Anyone who thought the host team’s absence would lead to a disappointing Gold Cup final doesn’t know Southern California very well: The sellout crowd south of downtown Los Angeles was overwhelmingly dominated by El Tri fans, which is treated like the home team every time it plays in this area, even against the US team.

Barely a month after frustrated Mexican fans boycotted the Nations League third-place game in Las Vegas against Panama, that passionate base returned with a vociferous return to the palatial NFL stadium of the Los Angeles Rams.