With two wins from two Gold Cup games, coach “Tata” Martino and Mexico look to make it three out of three against Martinique on Sunday.
Every one expected Mexico to beat Cuba convincingly so there was no surprise with the 7-0 result. We all knew Cuba was going to be little more than a practice session to get all the first-team players ready for Gold Cup tests to come.
That first real test was against an impressive Canada side brimming with young, dynamic players such as Bayern Munich starlet Alphonso Davies. Canada was going to be a measuring stick for coach “Tata” Martino as Canada – along with Jamaica and Team USA – represents the biggest threat for El Tri in this year’s Gold Cup. Mexico could even meet Canada again further on down the line.
Mexico – and Martino – passed this test with flying colors with the only hiccup being a sloppy play by defender Nestor Araujo that gifted a goal to Canada, robbing Memo Ochoa of a clean sheet. Winning comfortably 3-1 in a well-managed game is a massive boost for Mexico fans as their confidence in Mexico going on to win the tournament climbed just a little higher.
Mexico has become a changed animal since Martino took over in January. Gone is the instability; gone is the uncertainty amongst the players. They look like a squad with a plan, who know their individual assignments. Tata seems to be bringing out the best in his players.
It’s not all positive for Mexico though, as they were hit with yet another injury, this time to PSV Eindhoven midfielder Erick Gutierrez who looks likely to miss the rest of the tournament with a pulled muscle.
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Luckily for Mexico, their midfield looks to be their strongest position, and players such as on fire veteran Andres Guardado can step into the breach and carry on the job.
Fans and pundits will likely shrug off Sunday’s contest vs Martinique as an automatic win and they wouldn’t be wrong. Given that this will be El Tri’s third game in nine days, it is likely that coach Martino will make several changes to his line-up.
I imagine that goalie Memo Ochoa and striker Raul Jimenez will be rested, with Corona and Chivas youngster Alexis Vega subbing in, respectively.
Vega especially will relish the chance to play again after scoring his first official goal for El Tri against Cuba. He should be be hungry to prove himself after an indifferent inaugural spell at Guadalajara. Jimenez will likely need a bit of a rest after being so crucial to Mexico’s attacking play in the first two games, and Martinique offers the perfect opportunity to change things up a bit.
Rodolfo Pizarro could also feature for the first time in the tournament as he looks to return to full fitness after suffering a thigh injury.
The Gold Cup is a massive opportunity for a host of fringe national team players who might not have had this chance had so many veterans not declined to play for Mexico this summer.
After Martinique though, the tournament gets serious. The quarterfinals arrive next week, so taking advantage of this opportunity to rotate and rest certain players, while giving others an opportunity, is crucial.