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Sunday, September 26, 2021

Can Mexico go all the way in the 2019–20 CONCACAF Nations League?

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Mexico’s fans at 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia. Photo: Дмитрий Садовников / Wikipedia

Mexico’s chances of winning the 2019/20 CONCACAF Nations league took a huge boost recently as not only did they grab a couple of vital wins, but two other seeded teams suffered humiliating results.

Acting as a qualifier for the CONCACAF Gold Cup, Mexico will be hoping to secure qualification by finishing in the top two of their three-team group. If they want silverware, they’ll need to win the final stages of the tournament in June, getting the better of Costa Rica and the United States, who are also seeded in League A, along with Honduras.

Mexico faced off against Panama and Bermuda looking to get through to the semi-finals of the competition. They dropped a string of key players for their games with Bermuda and Panama recently, with Wolverhampton Wanderers’ Raul Jimenez and Sevilla’s Javier Hernandez sitting out. A guide to the Premier League by Coral notes how Wolves signed Raul Jimenez permanently this season after his strong performance while on loan. Hernandez, a former Real Madrid player, is also seen as a key figure.

Both were given a rest as Mexico anticipated two relatively straightforward games. Boasting a host of Under 23 players, they swept Bermuda aside emphatically, winning 5-1. It was the 12th win in 14 matches for Gerardo Martino since taking over as manager and he’s certainly turned around the fortunes of El Tri. He replaced Juan Carlos Osorio who left after taking them to the last 16 of the World Cup, beating both Germany and South Korea on the way.

The former Barcelona manager saw his side defeat Panama in their second group match in the Nations League to leave them in pole position at the top of the table. He’s blooded some young players who might not otherwise have got a game; Juan Macías scored three across the two matches, firmly announcing himself on the international scene after his debut goal against Trinidad at the start of October.

Their chances of success have been boosted by poor showings from the United States and Costa Rica. Whilst Martino’s side rested several key players, a strong U.S. outfit took on Cuba and Canada. While they easily moved past the former, the Toronto Sun reported how Canada inflicted their first defeat on the U.S. soccer team since 1985.

Costa Rica fared even worse; they struggled to two draws against Haiti and Curaçao. Los Ticos are rated 47th in the world and their opponents were 88th and 98th respectively. Only Honduras managed to pick up a couple of wins from the seeded sides; they bagged a 2-0 victory away to Trinidad and Tobago and added an unconvincing 1-0 win against Martinique.

Mexico simply need a point to qualify for the Gold Cup, with the top two places in the groups giving passage to that tournament. The biggest threat comes when they visit Panama, they were fifth seeds and will be fighting to stay in the tournament, but the relatively straightforward win in the first game suggests Mexico have little to fear.

With the hint of a trophy in June, they’ll be keen to ensure they keep their good run of form going and emerge as CONCACAF Nations League Champions, which they should do with ease.

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