GLENDALE, Ariz. — Of the 60,000 or more fans expected to pack State Farm Stadium on Tuesday night, nearly all will come expecting a Gold Cup semifinal win for Mexico over Haiti.
A loss would be virtually inexcusable for the giants of Concacaf against the upstart Les Grenadiers, who stunned Canada in the quarterfinals and have the opportunity for the country’s biggest soccer win since it made the 1974 World Cup.
Haiti, dubbed the “revelation” of the 2019 Gold Cup by Mexico coach Tata Martino, aren't just playing Mexico. They are playing El Tri and thousands of its supporters on non-Mexican soil.
But Mexico will be facing their shortest turnaround of the tournament, having also played 30 additional minutes of extra time before advancing past Costa Rica in the quarterfinal on penalties.
Stars Andres Guardado and the LA Galaxy’s Jonathan dos Santos are nursing injuries. But the short turnaround won't weigh into whether they make Mexico coach Tata Martino's starting XI, Martino said in Monday's press conference.
“Resting players for a semifinal isn't happening,” Martino said in Spanish, adding that Guardado and dos Santos have been recovering right along with the rest of those who played major minutes just a few days ago. “It's a semifinal so nobody should have reason to miss this game because of lack of rest.”
Said Haiti coach Marc Collat, through a translator: “We hope that it will be a little advantage for our team."
This is an obvious mismatch on paper. Mexico are No. 18 in the world, Haiti No. 101 — and 11th in Concacaf — based on the most recent FIFA rankings. Mexico have depth and the experience of multiple Gold Cup titles.
Haiti's side, win or lose Tuesday, are already an inspiration to the island nation.
“There will be no pressure on the players to beat Mexico,” Collat said. “It is an extraordinary occasion for Haiti to be in the semifinals of the Gold Cup and I believe the players are ready for this event.”