Raul Jimenez saved Mexico’s men’s national soccer team from an unspeakable fate by doing the unthinkable Friday.
Jimenez scored a wonderfully stunning bicycle-kick goal, which stood as the game-winner in Mexico’s 2-1 victory over Panama. The Mexico striker had only been on the field for two minutes when he scored what is probably the most important and spectacular goal of his burgeoning professional career.
With the game tied at 1-1 in the 85th minute, Mexico midfielder Fernando Arce‘s pass found Jimenez in the Panama area. Jimenez’s first touch might have been a mistake, but his second was deliberate and emphatic. With defenders Harold Cummings and Roman Torres bearing down on him, Jimenez used an overhead kick to rifle the ball past Panama goalkeeper Jamie Penedo from 16 yards out.
“My initial intention was to hit it low, but then I had to improvise going in the air,” the Associated press reports Jimenez said. “It was a last-resort type of thing.”
Unlike the 22-year-old Jimenez, Mexico coach Victor Manuel Vucetich didn’t bother with modesty or understatement when talking about the goal.
“What a spectacular goal, really beautiful and above all very emotional,” he said.
The victory kept Mexico’s (slim) hopes of securing automatic qualification to the 2014 FIFA World Cup alive. “El Tri” trails third-placed Honduras by two points with one game remaining in the CONCACAF hexagonal round and leads fifth-placed Panama by three points. The top three teams qualify automatically — the United States and Costa Rica already have — and the fourth will face Oceania champion New Zealand in a two-game playoff for a place in next year’s tournament. Mexico visits Costa Rica on Tuesday, while Honduras travels to Jamaica.
Regardless of what Jimenez does against Costa Rica, it’s safe to say he’s already a national hero.