Mexico look to carry 2023 form into W Gold Cup opener against a ‘building’ Argentina

February 20 – Mexico open the group stages of the W Gold Cup today against Argentina at the Dignity Health Stadium in Carson, Los Angeles with what could be the key deciding game for group position right at the start of the campaign.

Last October the two sides met in the semi-finals of the Pan-American games in Chile with Mexico winning 2-0 with both goals scored by midfielder Lizbeth Ovalle. Mexico went on to beat Chile 1-0 in the final.

In a group with the all-powerful USA looking to flex muscle after a poor 2023 and World Cup, Mexico and Argentina are battling for position come the knockout rounds. Second place in the group is automatic qualification for the quarter finals whilst the best two third placed finished in the three groups will also go through.

Mexican captain Maria Sanchez hopes that their form and preparation from 2023 will carry through to this year.

“We had a real good year last year but obviously we know the competition is huge and this will be a lot more competitive. We hope our work last year translates to this and we have a good start to the Gold Cup,” said Sanchez.

“I think this will be a different match. Both teams are coming from different places after the semi-final at the Pan American Games. We both will look to correct some things. It will be very competitive.”

At the last Concacaf women’s tournament in Monterey, Mexico, in 2022, the Mexican promised much but failed to deliver.

Coach Pedro Lopez Ramos was adamant that this is a very different situation, team and set-up.

“We have had great preparation. We have been together for a few weeks now and have prepared well for this match… it is a beautiful opportunity for us,” said Ramos.

“LigaMX clubs are more professional now. They have great coaches, analysts, physical trainers and medical staff and this way we can receive players and work with them in a more professional way, and with the clubs,” he continued.

“We know it will not be one single player that wins the match but that it is a collective work, a team work. It is important that the players understand each other better.”

Argentina are coming for a different place and see the women’s game in their country as very much in the development stage but are insistent they are here to compete, whatever the result.

“At the Pan American Games we didn’t have all our players, some came at the last minute. The tournament was not part of the FIFA window so clubs did not release their players,” said Argentina coach German Portanova.

Despite having played at four Women’s World Cups, Portanova stressed that the Argentine reality is different to the Mexican and does not have the depth of professional players or the competitive domestic league to develop strong world beating international women’s teams.

“We know LigaMX, we know their players and that is a great league that is being heavily invested in, and we will compete in the best possible way,” said Portanova.

“Our reality is different. We are Argentina’s female football. Not Argentina’s male football. We are working a lot and out goal is to compete with the world, but we are Argentinian and we are passionate about football.

“But we have to recognise the realities and the US and Mexico have been working a long time…

“For us to compete against these teams is incredible. We want to compete with the best teams, even when we lose.”

Portanova has brought a young team to the W Gold Cup and emphasises the “building process”.

“For Argentina this is a time of renewal. Some players left. We are trying this tournament with new young players and defining our style of play.”

For all his downplaying of his team, to underestimate Argentina and Portanova would probably be a mistake.

“My favourite idea would to be to play an attacking 433, but sometimes you have to play what you can and not what you want,” said Portanova. Sounds like he has a plan.

“We are in this building process. Playing Mexico, USA and the Dominican Republic is may be the start of our history. We are making these steps (in development) and we will compete in the best possible way beyond the result.”

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