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Mexico vs Panama | Monday 08 July | Rose Bowl, Pasadena | 02:00
The CONCACAF (Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football) Gold Cup is the main association competition determining the regional champion of North America, Central America, and the Caribbean. Like other continental competitions i.e. Africa Cup of Nations, the Gold Cup is held every two years. Peculiarly, the tournament is always staged in the USA. Together with USA, Mexico are tournament favourites. The opening day of the Gold Cup sees Mexico take on a capable Panama team.
To Win (90mins)
Mexico is historically the most successful national team in the CONCACAF region, as they are the only team from the region to win an official FIFA recognized title. They hold one FIFA Confederations Cup, nine CONCACAF championships, including six CONCACAF Gold Cups, one North American Nations Cup and two NAFC Championships. They are the clear favourites in Group A, ahead of opponents Panama, Canada and the tiny and inexperienced nation of Martinique. Mexico were unlucky in the recent Confederations Cup as they were pitted in the “group of death” which consisted of Brazil, Italy and Japan. They lost 2-1 to Italy, 2-0 against eventual winners Brazil but restored pride as they beat Japan 2-1 in their final group game. Mexico have battled to score goals and win games in the World Cup qualifiers as they have drawn five of their six matches, winning the other one. But after playing some decent football in the Confederations Cup, the team should be confident going into the tournament.
Coach Jose Manuel de la Torre has been skating on thin ice, with Mexico’s form being below-par of late. The Gold Cup is an opportunity for the coach to bring some glory to what has been a poor summer so far for Mexico’s national team. Whilst star players Giovani dos Santos and Javier Hernandez will be back with their clubs for pre-season training, this tournament gives some of Mexico’s emerging young strikers a chance on the international stage. The team is composed of domestic players with international experience, those who were part of last year's Olympic gold-medal winning squad or others trying to break into the side. Gold-medalists midfielder Jorge Enriquez and forward Marco Fabian, both of Guadalajara, also were named. The team also includes three players from three-time defending CONCACAF Champions League champions Monterrey - goalkeeper Jonathan Orozco, defenders Darvin Chavez and Leobardo Lopez. Striker Javier Orozco, who is the CONCACAF Champions League's all-time leading scorer with 24 goals, is included after making a recent move from Cruz Azul to Santos.
Panama are ranked 43rd in the world rankings and will be looking to cause an upset against Mexico. They were impressive in the third round of World Cup qualifiers as they topped their group ahead of Honduras, Canada and Cuba. They then qualified for the final round of qualifiers but have failed to score a goal in their last three matches, conceding four. Like other CONCACAF teams, Panama will look to their US MLS players for experience. Belize, Cuba and Mexico are the only teams without a single MLS representative. Panama’s biggest MLS export is FC Dallas’ Blas Perez who has 76 caps and has scored 29 goals for his country. Partnering him up front will be 23-year-old Rolando Blackburn, who plies his trade in Sweden for Hacken.
VERDICT: Mexico 7/20
In the last seven meetings between Mexico and Panama, Mexico have won four with the other three matches ending in draws. Although both sides have struggled to win games of late, Mexico are tipped to dominate and get the maximum points.
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