These Central American neighbors began their Gold Cup campaigns on vastly different notes, with Mexico routing shorthanded Cuba to the tune of 6-0 on Thursday night after Guatemala dishearteningly fell to Trinidad & Tobago earlier in Group C action.
It was a much-needed win for Mexico, who had struggled for results since the World Cup and saw two of their star players – Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez and Hector Moreno – recently go down with injury. Guatemala’s loss struck quite a different chord. Los Chapines, who needed a result against Trinidad & Tobago to have a realistic shot at finishing in the top-two in Group C, fell flat against the Soca Warriors, falling behind 3-0 in the opening half hour of their eventual 3-1 loss.
GUATEMALA GOAL DIFFERENCE: Guatemala are heavy underdogs entering Sunday’s match, but – even with a loss to their northern neighbors and a Trinidad & Tobago win against lowly Cuba – Los Chapines would still have hope of qualifying for the next round. The top-two third-place teams from the Gold Cup’s three groups advance to the quarters; though goal difference – the first tiebreaker for third-place qualifiers – is usual paramount in determining who goes through. With Cuba on the horizon next week, even a close loss to El Tri on Sunday would feel like a solid result for Marco Pappa and Co.
MOMENTUM FOR MEXICO: Though it came against a second-rate Cuban side that was missing six players and their head coach due to visa issues and another player after he defected, Mexico’s lopsided win on Thursday no doubt gave El Tri a big-time confidence boost. Oribe Peralta, Carlos Vela and Gio dos Santos – all of whom will need to shoulder more of an offensive burden with Chicharito sidelined – all scored, with Peralta bagging a hat trick as Mexico notched an astonishing 44 shots.
HISTORY IN THE MAKING?: It’s a longshot, but a Guatemalan win on Sunday would be absolutely historic. Los Chapines haven’t beaten Mexico since 2007, when they pulled off a shocking 3-2 win over El Tri in a friendly in Los Angeles. The last time Guatemala beat Mexico prior to that? 1973.