Group Preview: Can Anyone Stop USA, Mexico?

Copa America and Euro 2020 will come to an end this weekend, but don’t worry, dear football fans: The Gold Cup starts on Saturday evening, when El Salvador accepts Curacao. As the cream has risen to the top in South America and Europe, ESPN has asked its North America-based writers to break down what to expect from the CONCACAF continental competition.

Jeff Carlisle, Gus Elvin, Kyle Bonagura and Eric Gomez take a look at four groups of the Gold Cup 2021 and describe the favorites, dark horses and players to watch out for.

Group A: Mexico, El Salvador, Curacao, Trinidad & Tobago

Expectations for the favorite: Mexico is the absolute favorite to win everything. After losing the CONCACAF Nations League final to the USA earlier this summer, El Tri Trainer Gerardo Martino was motivated enough to present an almost full squad for his U23 team despite a high workload this summer with the upcoming World Cup qualification and the Olympic Games. There is an unintended consequence when Martino selects most of his top players against a somewhat weakened field.

What’s next for the USMNT-Mexico rivalry after the Nations League epic?

If Mexico doesn’t win this tournament, the Argentine coach will clearly be in the hot seat in qualifying for Qatar 2022, where a bad result can ruin a whole generation of talent.

Can someone take off the favorite? Mexico has downplayed CONCACAF opponents in the past assuming they win and even got some teams out of the way. It will be very interesting to see El Tri compete against a team like Curacao, against which they have only faced twice since 1982. In their 2017 Gold Cup clash, the Caribbean held Mexico by one goal for 90 minutes before Edson Alvarez scored the 2-0 in stoppage time. . Granted, this Mexican side wasn’t nearly as high-profile as this iteration.

El Tri will also face the usual tough challenges posed by better-known opponents in Trinidad & Tobago and El Salvador, although neither side has had much luck in any capacity against Mexico in recent years.

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Who will be a Group MVP? All eyes will be on Mexico Hirving Lozano Put your stamp on this tournament right from the start. The Naples Winger originated as El Triis the most dangerous player since Raul Jimenez’s injury, which resulted in a prolonged absence from the national team. Whether he’s used in a false nine-role or storms off the wing, “Chucky” will likely lead his team’s attack throughout.

Who will be the group’s breakout star? After a lengthy debate about whether he could represent Mexico at all, Striker has Rogelio Villnöss Mori immediately made an impression El Tri, scored on his debut against Nigeria earlier in July. The Monterrey frontman has been one of the top scorer in the Liga MX for the past decade and is still in a position to shape this tournament at the age of 30. – Eric Gomez

Group B: USA, Canada, Martinique, Haiti

Expectations for the favorite: United States Manager Gregg Berhalter has gone to great lengths to say that his Gold Cup squad is not a B-Team, but with many of his best players taking a break after long club seasons, that’s essentially what it is. Nevertheless, the USMNT remains the favorite to win the group.

Berhalter has also made it clear that his goal is to win the tournament. Given the strength of the Mexican team, there is an opportunity that may not come true, but this group of players will be very motivated to show that they should be back when they resume World Cup qualifiers in September. The backline is a bit thin, but in Walker carpenter and Miles Robinson, there is enough quality to get the job done.

Up on the field Sebastian Lletget will likely lead the midfield while Daryl Dike has a great chance to make a strong argument that he should be the starting striker in World Cup qualifiers. For this group, a place in the final is the minimum that can be expected.

Can someone take off the favorite? Certainly. Canada is a rising football nation that shot a shot across the bow of the USMNT during the CONCACAF Nations League and defeated its neighbors 2-0 in the group stage. While star forward Jonathan David was not on this list, such as Bayern Munich‘s Alphonso Davies‘Besiktas’ Cyle Larin and newly engaged striker Ayo Akinola should offer a lot of skill and attack power. Houston midfielder Tyler Pasher is also in great shape right now.

There are questions about Canada’s backline, but the Reds should get out of the group and be able to take the top spot. That said Haiti has got Canada in trouble in the past – they beat the Reds 3-2 in the 2019 quarter-finals – and could cause a stir to finish second in the group. Martinique likely won’t have enough to move up here despite having been competitive in previous Gold Cup appearances.

Who will be a Group MVP? This usually goes to a striker, so Dike and Larin are the first names that come to mind. The Haitian tandem of Duckens Nazon and Frantzdy Pierrot – who scored a total of seven goals in the preliminary round – could also dazzle.

Who will be the group’s breakout star? Much was predicted for the US midfielder Gianluca Busio. If he has time to shine, he could emerge as the newest young US player to make a name for himself. The aforementioned Pasher has made the rounds in the MLS this season with three goals and as many assists in eight games: he’s also one to watch out for. – Jeff Carlisle

Expectations for the favorite: Costa Rica will be the favorite in Group C by default, but despite a winless streak of 11 games that dates back to November 2019. In the CONCACAF Nations League last month, the Ticos twice lost on penalties – in the semifinals against Mexico and Honduras in the game for third place – before the 4-0 defeat against USA coach Ronald Gonzalez finally cost his job.

A run into the Gold Cup semifinals is sensible, and anything beyond that would require improving recent form.

Can someone take off the favorite? Jamaica, which has reached two of the last three Gold Cup finals and the semi-finals in 2019, might as well be favorites ahead of Costa Rica. A recent infusion of England-born players has given the Reggae Boyz more roster depth, but their Gold Cup roster won’t make an international debut for in particular West Ham United Forward Mikhail Antonio and does not include Swansea Citys City Jamal Lowe or Watfords André Grau, both of which will debut in March.

Who will be a Group MVP? Costa Rica striker Joel Campbell should be a constant threat while Jamaica’s Shamar Nicholson, who plays for Royal Charleroi SC in Belgium, is also a dangerous attacker.

Who will be the group’s breakout star? Surinams Nigel Hasselbaink, who scored successive hat tricks in World Cup qualification, has a good opportunity to sharpen his profile within CONCACAF. – Kyle Bonagura

Group D: Honduras, Panama, Grenada, Qatar

Expectations for the favorite: Honduras is ranked 67th on the FIFA list and is expected to lead a Group D that includes Panama, Grenada and guests Qatar. With an experienced defense under the leadership of the 38-year-old Maynor Figueroa, and always dangerous Alberth Elis in attack, Los Catracos should not only win the group, but are also more than capable of knocking out one of the big dogs in the knockout rounds, as they almost did against the USA in the semi-finals of the Nations League.

Can someone take off the favorite? While Honduras is favored, Group D is the most open group, with Panama and Qatar both being strong challengers. A battle-worn Panama is made up of five players who have compiled more than 90 international matches, led by 2018 World Cup veterans Anibal Godoy and Gabriel Torres, while Qatar, a relatively unknown CONCACAF club, was the surprise winner of the 2019 Asian Cup and wants to make the most of these competitive games before hosting the World Cup in 17 months.

Who will be a Group MVP? Elis. One of the most dynamic attackers in the entire CONCACAF “,La Pantera“is fresh from a strong debut season in Portugal with Boavista and is tasked with shouldering the burden of attack on Honduras. The good news for Honduras is that Elis can do just that, as his tremendous pace and dribbling make him a constant threat, both on counterattacks and in one-on-one situations with defenders.

Who will be the group’s breakout star? Qatar is the mysterious outfit as it is a guest attendee but keep an eye on the young strikers Akram Afif and Almoez Ali. Afif, 24, was named Asian Footballer of the Year in 2019; He has been named Qatar Stars League Player of the Year for the last two seasons when he played under Xavi at Al Sadd. Ali, who was born in Sudan and is also only 24, has now scored 30 goals in 62 games for the national team, including nine in the 2019 Asian Cup for MVP.

While both players have already played in Europe – Afif in Spain and Belgium and Ali in Austria and Spain – both could put in strong performances at the Gold Cup in summer transfers. – Gus Elvin

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