Tomorrow, on 12 August, the US will take on Mexico in Estadio Azteca (4pm on Telemundo and Mun2) in what amounts to a crucial World Cup Qualifier for both teams. The US is currently in second place with 10 points (2 behind leaders Costa Rica) while Mexico is in 4th place with only 6 points from 5 games. Suffice it to say that Mexico does have something to prove.
Despite the 5-0 Gold Cup Final win, Mexico is under more pressure because they’re in that precarious 4th position (the team in 4th has to play the CONMEBOL 5th-place finisher to get into the World Cup; incidentally, Costa Rica is taking on Honduras in a battle of first v. third, which means there could be a lot of movement in the standings tomorrow; but I digress).
Mexico is riding a wave of confidence. Look at Andrés Guardado’s ill-advised statements the other day: “Of course we will win, 3-0,” Guardado said. “We have players of high quality and you can see that the team has prepared well, now there is only the question of showing it on the field on Wednesday.” Confidence is good; deliberately inflaming your opponent isn’t very smart, though.
The US has something to prove, too. In no particular order, they need to prove that they can play well and win at Azteca and they need to prove the it was the Gold Cup, rather than the Confederations Cup, that was the fluke. It’s also important that the US doesn’t backslide into the form of previous World Cup Qualifiers (i.e. allowing a goal or two in the first 15 minutes).
If Bob Bradley is smart, he’ll take the game to Mexico and try to take the crowd out of the game while scoring first. I know why Mexico plays its most important games at Azteca: a massive crowd and a high altitude. Add to that Mexico’s skill and you can see why they rarely lose there. Mexico will play their game and look run the US out of the stadium. In all likelihood, they will be successful, even though Rafael Márquez is out with a hamstring injury.
I’m not going to predict a final score but I think it will be a close game. I also think Mexico will win and throw the CONCACAF qualifiers into a glorious mess.