After beating Jamaica in Wednesday’s weather-affected semi-final, the USA have set up another instalment of their ongoing rivalry with Mexico in Sunday’s CONCACAF Gold Cup final.
A Historic Rivalry
One of the oldest football rivalries in the Americas, the USA and Mexico first played one another at the 1934 World Cup. The USA won that game 4-2, but that result was not typical of how this rivalry has since developed. In fact, Mexico won the next ten encounters, and the USA didn’t beat their southern neighbours again until 1980. Overall, Mexico hold 37 wins to the USA’s 20, although the last five meetings have produced two wins apiece and one draw.
Mexico Grinding Out Wins
Mexico came into the Gold Cup significantly weakened due to the absence of key players Hector Herrera, Javier Hernandez and Carlos Vela, along with rising star Hirving Lozano. Their progress through the Group phase was smooth, with victories over Cuba and Canada, but their last three games have been less straightforward. They were tested by Martinique and had to grind out victories over Costa Rica on penalties and Haiti in extra time to get to the final.
USA Finding their Feet
Gregg Berhalter’s team reached the semi-final stage without conceding a goal, but while their performances looked good on paper, anyone who’d seen them struggle to beat Panama and Curacao would have had serious doubts about their ability to win this tournament. But those doubts were dispelled to a degree by their strong semi-final performance, in which they overcame a weather disruption to beat a talented Jamaican side 3-1.
The tactical changes that Berhalter has been attempting to introduce seemed to click against Jamaica, with Michael Bradley silencing some of his critics and Christian Pulisic adding to his growing reputation, and that performance seems to suggest that the USA are improving.
A Potential Classic
Bookmakers have not been swayed by the USA’s performance against Jamaica, and despite having home advantage, they are regarded as the 12/5 outsiders, with Mexico generally rated as a 5/4 chance. But with the USA finding their form, and a weakened Mexican side having already been through two extra-time knock out games, this final could be closer than the odds suggest.