This year’s Gold Cup was a distant priority for the Mexican national team set-up at the start of 2013. Making good headway in World Cup qualifying was the main goal, and the Confederations Cup was a natural step for El Tri in its bid to get past the Round of 16 stage of a World Cup.
As no one who follows football on this side of the Atlantic should need reminding, things haven’t worked out for El Tri in 2013, and the Gold Cup – in which Mexico takes a B squad – is now an exercise in trying to patch up what has gone wrong so far. Coach Jose Manuel “Chepo” de la Torre needs some quick fixes for the squad and could find some solutions to help the base goal of 2013: to reach Brazil 2014.
Here are five areas the Gold Cup could help to solve:
Miguel Layun has been the subject of online jibes ever since 2011 when the “It is all Layun’s fault” mercilessly trended on Twitter after America managed just 15 points in the Apertura tournament. The 25-year-old was the first, and still only, Mexican to feature in Serie A, although the fact he played just 32 minutes for Atlanta was seen as just another reason to mock the player.
But now in the Gold Cup squad, Layun is set to start for El Tri against Panama on Sunday, if warm-up games are anything to go by, and knows that a good tournament could see him promoted to the full squad, with the right back position a relentless headache for Chepo.
Layun at the World Cup? Don’t bet against it just yet.
The Mexico coach has yet to find a balance in the center of the park, as shown by the frequency with which he has swapped his central midfield duo.
Alejandro Castro has come from nowhere last season with Cruz Azul and will be eying the defensive midfield spot that Gerardo Torrado has recently occupied.
The other one who could steal a place is Leon’s Carlos Pena, but his lack of consistency has been costly to his chances, which is exactly the same situation Jorge Enriquez finds himself in.
Nevertheless, the rewards are huge for any of the above that can make an impression at the Gold Cup.
Stop the USA from overtaking regional superiority
It won’t have gone unnoticed that as Mexico fell three places to 20th in the FIFA rankings, the United States rose six to 22nd. If the Americans win the Gold Cup, they may overtake Mexico.
Considering the rivalry, the optimism in Mexico going into 2013 and the pessimism among large sections of U.S. supporters, losing the CONCACAF top spot would be a huge reality check for Mexico’s national team program.
Step up, Marco Fabian. That has to be the message to the Chivas player. Now 24, there’s no hiding the fact that he hasn’t lived up to the hype and, although injuries have been partly responsible for that, he needs a good tournament as he bids to be part of Brazil 2014.
The full national team could use an in-form Fabian, too, with goals a real problem and one of the attacking positions very much up for grabs.
With a vital World Cup qualification clash with Honduras coming up in September, El Tri needs a good Gold Cup simply to lift the clouds that have surrounded the various Mexican national teams all summer.
The media in Mexico and fans are pressurizing, the vultures are circling and Chepo’s reign as El Tri coach has gone from one long honeymoon to a nightmare in the space of six months.
He needs a break, and lifting the Gold Cup would both give temporary respite and a shot of confidence before that all-important Honduras duel.
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