July 23 – The first Gold Cup quarter final double header takes place in Glendale, Arizona, on Saturday in front of a sell out crowd. El Salvador meet Qatar, followed by Mexico vs Honduras.
It promises to be an electric evening of football with three well-supported Latin American teams ready to rock. It could also fundamentally shake the old order of Concacaf football.
El Salvador vs Mexico
El Salvador are aiming for their first semi-final in the competition having previously reached the quarter final five times.
Having won their first two matches they were unlucky to lose their final group game against a Mexico team that has struggled to find goalscoring form. El Salvador could easily have snatched a draw if not more in the second half of that game. It has been their best group stage performance in their Gold Cup history.
El Salvador have never struggled to be competitive with the region’s best but have struggled to consistently score goals. This Gold Cup has seen them take a step to turning that round with four goals so far and plenty of good chances created.
However they are up against Asian Champions Qatar who certainly know how to score goals (eight so far) and after opening with a draw against Panama have worked their way into the tournament ton become a real contender for the title.
However, they go into the game against El Salvador with a day’s less rest and having come off a nail-biting win against Honduras that guaranteed qualification at the top of their group.
Qatar will start as favourites but if El Salvador can contain the brilliant Akram Afif going forward, and Almoez Ali doesn’t reverse a run of form that has seen him wasteful in front of goal, El Salvador could expose a Qatar defense, particularly from the wings.
Honduras vs Mexico
Honduras face reigning champions and Gold Cup royalty Mexico in what is a rematch of their Nations League semi-final match in June that saw Mexico go through 5-4 on penalties after a 0-0 draw at full time.
This Gold Cup Mexico have struggled to find the net without a recognised target man up front and the injury to their main goal threat Hirving Lozano.
Even so they have had plenty of possession and although surprising only drawing against Trinidad and Tobago in their opening group game their campaign has been building.
If Mexico have traditionally bossed Concacaf’s football, there is a feeling that their reign is under very real threat and Honduras came to the US with real ambition to win the title.
Unlike Mexico, Honduras have scored seven goals despite a succession of injuries to their strikers. Talisman Alberth Elis has played only a cameo role in the Gold Cup to date.
However Romell Quioto has stepped up and top scores with three goals so far in the tournament, while Jerry Bengtson, Edwin Solano, Johnny Leveron and Alexander Lopez have all contributed goals.
Quioto limped off in the last game against Qatar to join the Honduras injury list. The game will likely hinge for Honduras on how many of the injury list can be patched up and rolled out for what will be a very intense evening
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