The CONCACAF Gold Cup enters the quarterfinal stage and as it does, so do Mexico and USA inch closer towards rekindling their rivalry in the final. By all accounts, defending champions Mexico and USA would be a dream final. It’s the final, everyone – from soccer fans to pundits alike – ultimately want and have envisioned from the start of the tournament.
Two more rounds remain before the final billing is set, so let’s not get ahead of ourselves and let’s look at the action before us that is set to get underway in the quarterfinal round this weekend.
Costa Rica vs. Honduras
Costa Rica has had a mediocre tournament as far as the group stage is concerned. Falling into Group A with Mexico did make things tougher but Costa Rica was challenged by another in their group, El Salvador when they were held to a 1-1 draw in game 2. In fact, had Costa Rica not thumped Cuba match 5-0 they might not have advanced into the knockout stages. Frankly, I am not convinced by this edition of Costa Rica. On paper, they do seem the better bet but Honduras, who is buoyed by a solid turnout for their country in this event, has nothing to lose. This could be a close call, indeed if not a surprise result.
Mexico vs. Guatemala
Mexico advances into the knockout stages on a perfect group account, having won all three matches. So far, Mexico is delivering on expectations. It is therefore reasonable to assume that they would continue to deliver and with interest. Not to dismiss Guatemala out of hand. After all, anything can happen and they have everything to play for but, in reality, beating Mexico is a massive undertaking, almost unthinkable really.
Jamaica vs. USA
USA has enjoyed a topsy-turvy tournament, not the dream run in Group action most expected I dare say – the defeat to Panama was most shocking, certainly – but it could be just a hiccup.
Problem is though that in falling to Panama, USA finished second in Group C and in turn, has drawn a surprisingly solid Jamaica in the quarterfinals. Jamaica takes a three-game winning streak into the quarters, making it loom large. Then again, they’ve had the easiest draw of the tournament. This is the real litmus test for Jamaica’s campaign and if they beat USA it would underscore group action, appropriately. However, I can’t help but believe that USA with its international experience in clutch matches and home advantage will find a way to persevere.
Panama vs. El Salvador
This is perhaps the most evenly matched up quarterfinal at the Gold Cup as both sides have a legitimate stake in the semis. Panama is in a great position to advance, extending an undefeated 2-1-0 run in the competition and that includes a morale-boosting win over the host nation USA. El Salvador, who began strong with a win and a draw before suffering a heavy 5-0 defeat to Mexico, can get back on the winning track with a life-extending win over Panama.
So which team to bet on? Really, it’s anybody’s game but I expect this game, while being tight and thrilling, to go the way of Panama, edging out a valiant El Salvador by the narrowest of margins.