GC Daily: Trailblazing Puerto Rico makes more history

All the latest news, thoughts, poems, analysis, and quotes from the W Gold Cup on Sunday.

GC Daily: Trailblazing Puerto Rico makes more history
Danielle Marcano celebrates scoring the winner for Puerto Rico | Courtesy of Concacaf

Note: Welcome to Gold Cup Daily. A quick snapshot of the tournament's action from the day before (beginning), some extra words on the day's main talking point (middle), and key details of the next matches (at the end).

Saturday's Group B results:
Puerto Rico 2-1 Panama
Colombia 0-1 Brazil

The Snapshot

A rotated Brazil side palmed away Colombia in arguably the most heavyweight clash we've seen at the 2024 Gold Cup so far.

The result means Brazil became just the second team, after the USA, to qualify for the Quarterfinals.

Despite lining up against talented opposition, Selecao head coach Arthur Elias was able to switch out five starters, including three of his back four, to get a better look at his squad.

Standout showings from the incoming players included a gritty and relentless display from defender Tarciane, who was tasked with containing Linda Caicedo and did so with aplomb.

Going forward, Gabi Nunes – who scored the winner off the bench against Puerto Rico – was upgraded to leading the line from the start. The Levante player set up the opening goal stylishly.

After two matches, Manchester United's Geyse remains a change-of-pace option for Brazil late on in matches. And, that is quite frightening for opponents in Southern California.

The reigning South American champions have a wealth of starry options to choose from. This is something that Colombia doesn't appear to have at this time. Currently, at this tournament, they are nursing the absences of stars Mayra Ramirez, Leicy Santos, and Catalina Perez as well as youngster Ana Guzman.

Defeat in San Diego also means the wait for Colombia's first-ever victory over Brazil goes on. After nine meetings, it is now one draw and eight defeats for Las Cafeteras.

Before this encounter, the last time these two nations met was in the 2022 Copa America final. A very tight affair that was settled by a first-half Debinha penalty kick.

For Brazil, that narrow Copa America victory over Colombia was followed up by a bitterly disappointing exit at the Group Stage at the 2023 World Cup. Whilst Las Cafeteras made an inspired run to the Quarterfinals.

So the gap is closing. By how much, though, remains unclear.

On Saturday, Colombia had more of the ball (57%-43%) but less of the chances (11-14). Brazil weren't passive, they were particular. The Selecao pressed high and were happy to see Colombia go backward or turn it over. They thrived on set pieces and looked much more physically equipped than their South American rivals.

At times, you could still see flashes of how Colombia could open up Brazil. Right until the final whistle Colombia where trying to find short passing combinations across the pitch. Their fluid triangles were hard to contain. But that final pass never came.

On another night, the promising build-up would've found more clear-cut chances. Instead, Brazil goalkeeper Luciana left the pitch without having a single save to make.

Courtesy of Concacaf

Trailblazing Puerto Rico makes more history

Puerto Rico head coach Nat Gonzalez was reaching for the kitchen sink. He was ready. It was time. Past time even.

Trailing 1-0 to Panama, with 20 minutes remaining, now was the moment to throw everything into attack.

Just as the manager was readying his subs, and drawing up a tactical change from 4-2-3-1 to 3-4-3, suddenly Puerto Rico was level.

Jill Aguilera's swerving rocket-esque corner kick to the back most meets the leaping rock-solid cranium of 5'11'' defender Madison Cox. 1-1.

Gonzalez raised his fists to celebrate on the sidelines. But he was quickly back in his thoughts again. He had a decision to make. Was this still the moment to go for it? Nerves arose.

"We were ready to make two subs. So when that [goal] happened, we had to put the brakes on," said Gonzalez after the match.

Four minutes pass. Gonzalez makes one of the subs, but keeps his team in the same shape. Another four minutes, it's approaching 80 minutes, and still no further adjustments.

Around the 83rd minute, he had then seen enough. His nerves were gone. Puerto Rico had been in the ascendency for nearly half an hour. All the momentum was with them.

"We were still going to change that shape, very aggressive shape. And if we can win, it turns out like this. And if you don't, then it's you know, you die trying," said Gonzalez.

The winning goal will be one replayed and replayed, again and again in Puerto Rico.

Kennedy Garcia's deft hold-up, the intelligence to find the angle on the pass, to roll it into space, and the stride of a teammate.

Danielle Marcano's confidence to round the keeper. To drive home the ball into the open net with emphasis. To let all emotion out in the celebrations.

The draw was off the table. The Blue Hurricane had all three points. Historico.

That's now two teams from the 2023 World Cup (Haiti and Panama) that Puerto Rico has beaten in the past week. A fine feather in their cap.

Puerto Rican history had already been made just by qualifying for the Gold Cup/equivalent Concacaf qualifying tournament, something the women's team nor the men's team had ever done before.

Now, the nation has its first-ever goals, points, and win at the tournament.

What next? Enjoying this moment. Of course, Saturday's win does make a potential Quarterfinal berth a much more likely proposition. Not that Gonzalez is entertaining too much forecasting.

"One day at a time...We're just gonna have to figure out how to put ourselves in a position to get to the Quarterfinals," he said.

The heroes of one of the biggest nights in Puerto Rican footy history deserve a moment to bathe in the history. At the very least, a moment.

NEXT: Sun. 25 Feb. Group C fixtures:
Canada v Paraguay | 5:00 p.m. ET
El Salvador v Costa Rica | 8:00 p.m. ET