On Sunday, Mexico’s Gold Cup journey begins with a clash against El Salvador in San Diego’s Qualcomm stadium. Although the squad is mostly made up of backup and fringe options, expectations will remain high for not only the roster, but also manager Juan Carlos Osorio.
Following an expected but less-than-exciting finish in fourth place at the Confederations Cup, criticism remains high for the coach that has received plenty of negative attention from Mexican media and fans.
When asked about this criticism during a press conference in San Diego on Saturday night, Osorio quickly stated that it was “impossible to explain.”
“Everyone is entitled to their own opinions,” said the Colombian. “I respect every human being, including the referee. However, I think opinions are opinions and everyone is entitled to one. I just try to concentrate on my responsibilities here and try to win the next game.”
The comment about “the referee” was a clear reference to his infamous moment last month during the Confederations Cup. In the third place match against Portugal, an enraged Osorio charged toward a fourth official, yelling into his left ear after Mexico wasn’t given a call in its favor.
Following the incident, the manager was given a six-match ban, therefore not allowing him to be available for the Gold Cup. Barring a potential appeal from the FMF, Osorio will be watching each game from the stands during the tournament. During Saturday’s press conference, the manager issued an apology to those who felt “offended or hurt” by his actions.
Regardless of the lack of the team’s head coach, El Tri will be expected to walk away from the Gold Cup match with a win in hand against El Salvador. Whether his omission from the sideline is either good or bad for Mexico remains to be seen.
Key to success for Mexico — Attack, attack, attack
With full respect to El Salvador, there is no reason why El Tri shouldn’t beat the Central American roster. Keeping in mind that the opposition’s backline will be filled with players who ply their trade in El Salvador’s Primera Division, Mexico must take advantage of the manageable defense.
This means that talented options like Rodolfo Pizarro and Elias Hernandez must hit the ground running with risk-taking runs and crosses on the wings. In the striker position, it will likely be up to Erick “Cubo” Torres or Martin Barragan to lead the scoring efforts.
Mexico player to watch — Elias Hernandez
During the recent friendlies against Ghana and Paraguay, Hernandez was easily Mexico’s most thrilling and dangerous option in the attack. The 29-year-old will also be heading into the match with plenty of momentum of scoring twice in the aforementioned games.
Predicted score — Mexico 3-1 El Salvador
I’m still skeptical of El Tri’s backline, but the attack should be able to easily compensate for any possible trouble that the opposition will create. Whether it be Barragan or Torres leading the attack, Mexico should have no problems finding the back of the net.