June 23 – Mexico go into their Gold Cup 2023 campaign in turmoil. Having unravelled in the 3-0 loss to the USA in the Concacaf Nations League 10 days ago in Las Vegas, the fans and the Mexican media turned on the team and manager Diego Cocca venomously.
Mexico did bounce back to beat Panama 1-0 in third place play off and it is a victory that could prove significant, even if it wasn’t as convincing as Cocca would have wanted.
The loss to the US left deep scars, but the reality was that in the opening exchanges of a fantastically fast-paced match, Mexico for 20 minutes were more than a match for the US. It was a Mexico vs US classic coming at the worst time for Cocca who is looking to transition his team to a new, winning, era.
That takes time, but Mexico is an impatient footballing ecosystem.
For the Gold Cup Cocca has retained 22 of the 23-man squad from the Nations League.
He will again be looking towards Feyenoord’s Eredivisie winning forward Santiago Gimenez, the standout Mexican player in Europe this season, for goals. He will also be hoping that Club America’s Henry Martin Club, the leading goalscorer in the latest Liga MX season, can find his scoring boots that seem to have become unlaced recently.
Ajax’s Edson Alvarez is an automatic selection in midfield and will pull the strings of Mexico’s championship challenge.He will be alongside midfielder Orbelin Pineda who is playing in his fourth Gold Cup.
Pineda said the win against Panama could be the springboard required for a successful Gold Cup campaign for this developing team.
“I think it was necessary to get back our confidence, that it was time to win a game and have control of the ball. It is a good sign for what is coming in the Gold Cup,” said Pineda.
“We still have work to do and to get to know each other more and have confidence in what the manager asks of us… I think this time we had more chances to have a command of the game and you saw it from the start. That helps us take a step forward. We have confidence, we have quality and we try to put that into place in the match,” said Pineda.
Mexico face a Honduran team that is also looking to return to Concacaf’s elite after a number of disappointing years since their 2014 World Cup appearance.
This is Honduras’ 16th appearance at the Gold Cup and they have the distinction of being one of three Central American teams to have reached a Gold Cup Final, doing so in the inaugural edition in 1991. Honduras also made it to three consecutive semifinals in 2009, 2011 and 2013.
Head coach Diego Vazquez is looking to a new generation to step up.
In the Nations League Honduras did secure the significant scalp of Canada though for the Gold Cup will be without injured forward Romell Quioto, who led the team in scoring with three goals in the 2021 tournament.
Much will depend on top Concacaf Nations League scorer and attacking star Alberth Elis who is fit and in the squad. At the back, Honduras have the very dependable Luis ‘Buba’ López in goal.
In between them reputations are ready to be made.
Mexico is a tough opener for this developing team, but they will be aiming for a last eight spot whatever the result of this game. And they will likely improve as the tournament progresses.
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