Two groups down, two to go.
Mexico and Uruguay top the bracket and appear as the current favorites to earn a place in the knockout stage. Each side will be eager to get past the group stage, but must first get past Jamaica and Venezuela. Will El Tri and La Celeste run into any trouble? Will Jamaica or Venezuela earn a surprise spot in the top two? Let’s find out.
Hernandez: Alright Nate, I’m really excited for this one. Let’s first talk about the home team for the competition. No, not the USMNT, I’m talking about Mexico. We all know that I’m biased, but I don’t think many would disagree with me when I say that this is an excellent opportunity for Mexico to do very well.
Abaurrea: Excellent opportunity? That might be an understatement. This whole thing has been aligned just for them.
After their pre-tournament friendly in San Diego against Chile, they’ve got an opening match against a likely “Suarez-less” Uruguay in Phoenix, then return to the Rose Bowl for the first time since that famous night last October, this time as they take on the Reggae Boys in a rematch of the 2015 Gold Cup Final. Then comes their group stage closer with lowly Venezuela in Houston.
I’m not saying the schedule making process was rigged, but the idea that all three Mexico games just happened to be conveniently placed at these notoriously pro-Mexican venues (with minimal travel for El Tri that never sees them leave the south) should certainly raise an eyebrow or three. They are the true hosts. There’s no denying it.
With all this in play, plus the actual quality that this Mexican side has shown under Juan Carlos Osorio, and with the Suarez injury debilitating the collective body of La Celeste, I think El Tri night win this group.
Hernandez: Even if Mexico played an official match in Alaska, there would still be at least 10,000 fans making the trip to watch El Tri.
I’m thinking they will finish in first as well. Mexico has won all six matches under Osorio and has yet to allow a goal during that run. In fact, the last time El Tri allowed a goal in any competition was during the 3-2 CONCACAF Cup win over the United States last October. The team has plenty of momentum and an immense amount of talent on the roster.
What about Uruguay? Are we ready to say that they will finish in second? La Celeste is currently sitting in first place in CONMEBOL’s World Cup qualifying and has some big names like Diego Godin, Jose Maria Gimenez, Carlos Sanchez, and Edinson Cavani in the ranks. That said, I wouldn’t be too surprised if they lose to Mexico and then struggle to find the back of the net without Suarez.
I’m excited to see how Uruguay come out against El Tri in Phoenix, especially Cavani on a personal level. I just fear that they won’t have that same bite (sorry) without El Pistolero up top. Luis Suarez is as good as any player on this planet, and in addition to Uruguay, the tournament as a whole is losing out without his presence, though he has still not been ruled out for potential knockout round fixtures. (On a side note, it is possible that all three members of Barcelona’s famous front line, Messi, Neymar, and Suarez, will all be absent from the Copa. Quite a shame. Let’s hope the magic healing process starts soon for the two non-Brazilians.)