By Dan Price
Yesterday’s 0-0 draw between Canada and Costa Rica means Mexico are already assured a place in the quarter finals of the Gold Cup regardless of tonight’s result against Trinidad and Tobago, though they still have the not insignificant aim of winning the match to secure first place in Group C.
Half an hour after Mexico kick off in North Carolina, Liga MX side Tigres UANL will be kicking off in their first competitive game of the new season – a Copa Libertadores semi-final first leg against Brazilian giants Internacional in Porto Alegre.
Both games promise to be enthralling affairs, but for entirely different reasons.
Mexican fans thought a corner had been turned after their comprehensive 6-0 demolition of Cuba in their Gold Cup opener, but a 0-0 draw with Guatemala in their second game quickly brought them back down to earth.
El Tri are 65 places ahead of Guatemala in the latest FIFA World Rankings and their opponents have only won one of their last eleven matches, but despite constant pressure during the 90 minutes a misfiring Mexican attack couldn’t find a way through.
Although Peralta and Guardado both missed golden opportunities, it wasn’t until the late introduction of Giovani dos Santos that they looked truly threatening.
A win against Trinidad and Tobago is now vital – not for the sake of the Gold Cup itself, but to avoid an already agitated media and fan-base going into open revolt.
On paper, the three points should be a given, but Trinidad have played well so far this tournament and will be keen to maintain their momentum.
5,000 miles away, Tigres fans will be in an entirely different mood. The Monterrey-based side have been the standout performers in the Copa Libertadores this season, having qualified from the group stage as the second seeds (behind the now-expelled Boca Juniors), and currently having scored the most goals in the competition.
If they caused problems for the South American sides previously, the arrivals of Andre-Pierre Gignac, Ikechukwu Uche, Javier Aquino, and Jurgen Damm will strike fear into their opponents.
Tuca has silenced his critics who claimed he either couldn’t or wouldn’t engage with continental competitions. It would be naïve to expect him to change Tigres’ approach at this stage – expect a cagey defensive performance and potentially a solitary away goal.
Mexico kick-off at 8:30pm EDT, while Tigres start at 9pm EDT.