Andres Guardado, who scored both of Mexico's goals in their 2-1 Gold Cup semifinal win over Panama on Wednesday, said that it briefly crossed his mind to intentionally miss the controversial penalty kick which he eventually scored to level the match.
"It was painful. Yes, for a minute, yes [I considered kicking it wide] but in the end, we are professionals and you think about the times you have been on the other side and the hearts of the other team's players aren't moved," Guardado told TV Azteca. "I repeat, this is football, sometimes you are given and sometimes it is taken away. Whether it should have been a penalty or not, that is not our fault."
Mexico were awarded a spot kick in the 88th minute in Atlanta after Panama defender Roman Torres -- who had opened the scoring earlier in the second half -- was judged to have handballed in the area.
Panama, already reduced to 10 men for much of the match, protested vehemently against the decision to the officials and fans threw debris onto the field to halt play for about 10 minutes.
Guardado kept his nerve to fire his left-footed strike into the right corner from 12 yards and set up extra time, but the PSV Eindhoven winger said after the match that he briefly considered missing on purpose as he believed the referee's decision was incorrect.
Guardado scored a second penalty in the 113th minute for the winner to set up a date against Jamaica in Sunday's final in Philadelphia.
The 28-year-old stressed that the mistake was that of referee Mark Geiger, and not of El Tri, although he admitted that his team did not play well.
"Just as I told the Panama coach, unfortunately the players we are the least guilty for what happened and for refereeing mistakes that can happen," the midfielder said. "We have to keep doing our job, scoring goals, sometimes football gives and sometimes football takes away. There will always be complaints, and afterward it is those of us on the pitch who unfortunately must represent and so we are the subject of all kinds of criticism."
Television replays showed the decision was controversial. Torres did his best to avoid touching the ball with his hand, and the Mexico players did not appeal with much conviction. Panama had been reduced to 10 men in the 25th minute after Luis Tejada jumped to attempt a header and hit Francisco Rodriguez with his arm and hand, knocking the defender to the ground. Tejada protested and had to be restrained by his teammates when the red card was shown.
Over the 90 minutes, Panama had more shots on goal and more shots on target and Mexico now hasn't scored a goal in open play in 240 minutes at this Gold Cup.
Guardado said that if El Tri continues to play poorly, it won't get past Jamaica in the final.
Mexico coach Miguel Herrera told ESPN's John Sutcliffe that the ref had a bad match and called for goal-line technology or some kind of instant replay, but said he would never have asked Guardado to deliberately kick it wide.
"No one ever does that," Herrera said. "I have never seen that happen. Sure, it passed through my mind that it wasn't a penalty, but I would have had to see the replay.
"This ref officiated an excellent game in his previous match for Trinidad & Tobago. Today he made mistakes, as all humans do on occasion."
Guardado also scored the decisive goal with a penalty kick in Mexico's 1-0 quarterfinal win over Costa Rica.
"We will continue to do our job. But really, tonight, we played a bad match, we have to recognize that," the Mexico captain said. "We played an ugly match and we weren't clear. Even with one more player [than Panama] we didn't have those kind of shots that we had against Costa Rica playing with 11. We have to analyze that because if we play like that in the final, we are going to lose for sure."
Herrera said his team despaired against Panama and that he would ask the players to "erase" this match and get ready for a tough final vs. Jamaica.