ARLINGTON, Texas -- Mariano Rivera's pep talk paid off for the Panamanian national soccer team, which upset Mexico 2-1 in the Gold Cup semifinals on Wednesday night at Cowboys Stadium. Rivera met with the players pregame at their hotel, and was able to get to the stadium for the end of the game Wednesday night.
"This victory is bigger and feels better than any [personal] accolade,” Rivera said in Spanish on his way out of the Panama team's locker room postmatch. “It was the triumph of small over big, David over Goliath.”
Rivera said he rushed over to the stadium to catch the final minutes.
“There were some tense moments at the end. We wanted the match to be over with already. We were saying, ‘Let’s go, ref, blow the whistle and finish this.’ We were so excited.”
Check out a Spanish-language video of Rivera discussing his Mo-tivational talk here.
“Mariano was an important part of this victory,” Panama goalkeeper Jaime Penedo said. “Just seeing him in person, meeting him, and seeing everything he has accomplished teaches you that anything is possible with hard work.
“He is the kind of person who gives lessons in humility and confidence. It is incredible and I am so happy that we were also able to pay him tribute.”
Rivera said he will keep the team “in his prayers” for the final versus the U.S. on Saturday in Chicago.
“From the first day when they beat Mexico, I was sure that this team was special. Now I am sure they can be champions. With faith all things are possible.”