Florida Cup’s second and final night came to Camping World Stadium tonight with a pair of friendlies. With Everton having already won the event with a penalty-kick shootout victory over Millonarios on Sunday — following the withdrawal of Arsenal and Inter Milan from the competition before it began, due to COVID-19 concerns — the event did well to add Pumas and Nacional to the lineup to fill out the second day.
But rather than rearrange the entire event to accommodate the last-minute additions, Florida Cup merely hosted the championship match on Sunday and a pair of friendlies tonight, rather than make the late additions part of the competition.
Everton of the English Premier League took on Pumas UNAM of Mexico’s Liga MX in the opening match, with Atletico Nacional and Millonarios taking part in a Colombian first division rivalry match in the nightcap.
Everton 1, Pumas 0
In the opening match, Everton got a first-half goal and that was enough to send Pumas home with a 1-0 loss. The goal came early in the match, with Moise Kean getting in behind in the 19th minute and hitting his shot at goalkeeper Julio Gonzalez. The keeper made the initial save but spilled it and left Kean with an easy tap-in to give the Toffees a 1-0 lead.
Everton should have had a chance from the penalty spot later in the half. Kean again was the danger man, trying an acrobatic shot on the volley and hitting the obviously outstretched arm of Ricardo Galindo in the penalty area. The arm was straight up and not even close to being in a natural position and may have prevented a goal. There was no penalty awarded and the Florida Cup does not have VAR.
The best chance for Pumas came in the 41st minute. Defender Nicolas Freire got his head to a corner kick cross. His shot deflected out off an Everton player and out for another corner.
Everton’s Alex Iwobi should have doubled the lead in first-half stoppage time. Iwobi broke down the right and fired a shot that skipped just inches wide of the left post.
That was it for the first half and the Toffees took their 1-0 lead into the break. Pumas had more shots (7-6) but Everton got more on target (4-2). Pumas earned more corners (3-1) but Everton held more possession (56.9%-43.1%) and passed more accurately (88.8%-81.8%).
Everton created some danger just two minutes after the restart, with Nathan Broadhead sending a cross through the box but none of his teammates could get onto it.
Three minutes later, Pumas got its first good look of the second half with Cristian Battocchio sending a shot just wide of the left post. Juan Ignacio Dinenno fired wide from the top of the area in the 58th minute for Pumas as the Mexican side continued to be wasteful with its chances.
Everton eventually got back on the front foot and finding space in the penalty area. In the 62nd minute, Anthony Gordon stung the palms of Gonzalez with a shot from the top of the area, but the keeper was able to make the save. Two minutes later, Abdoulaye Doucoure sent a shot just wide of the right post on a good opportunity.
Gonzalez then made an excellent save on James Rodriguez in the 68th minute off a cross from Gordon from the left.
Leonel Lopez tried his luck from distance in the 74th, sending a shot in that forced a diving save from substitute goalkeeper Joao Virginia. The Portuguese keeper made an even bigger stop a minute later on a second long-range attempt.
Jonjoe Kenny got in alone in the 82nd minute for the Toffees but Gonzalez made himself big and made a point-blank save.
That was the last good opportunity for either side, as Pumas tried to get forward for the equalizer but couldn’t connect the final pass in the attacking third. Everton held on for the win.
Pumas had more shot attempts (15-14), but Everton got more on target (7-4). Pumas earned more corners (5-2), while Everton held more possession (55.7%-44.3%) and more accurate passing (85.8%-83.9%).
“We were expecting that (Pumas) would play in another way,” Everton Manager Rafa Benitez said after the match. “We were watching some games and they changed the system. And that is good news for us because we were learning how to manage another way to attack and defend against a different system. And that is a great opportunity for us to grow, to improve. And I think that we did well in the end.”
Atletico Nacional 3, Millonarios 2
In the nightcap, the Colombian rivalry got spicy early. Just six minutes into the match, Nacional was pressing forward and creating problems. Jarlan Barrera broke down the middle of the box alone and scored the opening goal for the former club of Orlando City midfielder Andres Perea.
Four minutes later, Juan Carlos Pereira of Millonarios picked up a yellow card for a nasty-looking challenge in the center circle.
From there, the game simply exploded for the rest of the first half, with the teams trading goals and scoring chances. Millonarios sent a warning signal in the 18th minute when Fernando Uribe fired just wide from the top of the area. Seven minutes later, Millonarios leveled the match. David Silva’s shot took a deflection and the goalkeeper had no chance in the 25th minute.
Nacional nearly pulled that goal back in the 28th minute but Harrison Mojica hit the crossbar. However, his team regained the lead anyway in the 31st minute, when a through ball split the defense and Jonatan Alvez finished calmly to make it 2-1.
A minute later, Uribe smashed a header just wide for Millonarios and in the 33rd minute, Los Embajadores equalized again. Silva got his brace with another shot that took a slight deflection off a defender and beat Aldair Quintana to make it 2-2.
The teams traded chances again before Nacional went back in front. Alvez was left all alone at the back post on a corner kick and the ball deflected through and fell for him to finish in the 44th minute.
Alvez nearly completed a first-half hat trick in stoppage time, but Christian Vargas made a huge save on his shot from about seven yards out.
The teams finally got to take a breath and went to their locker rooms with Nacional holding a 3-2 edge. Nacional also led in shots (10-6), shots on target (5-2), corners (5-1), possession (55.1%-44.9%), and passing accuracy (87.6%-83.1%).
After such a crazy first half, it was a bit disappointing to see the match settle down in the second period, but neither team could find the net. There were a few good opportunities, but the score stayed right where it was.
Uribe sent his third shot of the game wide of the net two minutes after the restart, giving him a hat trick of near-misses for Millonarios.
In the 66th minute, Nacional nearly got an insurance goal from Baldomero Perlaza but Vargas made a massive save to keep it a one-goal game.
Millonarios created the best chance of the second half, nearly bagging an equalizer in the 85th minute. But Quintana made a fantastic diving save to keep it out and the match ended the same way the first half finished up.
Nacional led in shots (17-11), shots on target (8-3), corners (8-4), possession (55.7%-44.3%), and passing accuracy (86.4%-83.9%). Despite the statistical domination, Millonarios were inches from tying the match late and had Los Embajadores been a little sharper — especially Uribe — could have beaten their rivals from Medellin.
That will do it for the 2021 version of the Florida Cup. The event was fraught with challenges due to the pandemic and had done well to schedule a stellar lineup, only to have things go wrong practically on the eve of the tournament. Kudos to Florida Cup for making the most of a bad situation and hosting an exciting event. We’ll see if the competition returns to the winter in 2022 or remains a summer event.