Jamaica and Mexico couldn't enter Sunday's Gold Cup final any differently. The Reggae Boyz are the unquestioned darlings of the tournament, playing in their first-ever final after shocking the United States in the quarterfinals. El Tri, meanwhile, snuck into the tournament's marquee match on the back of two controversial penalty kicks that prompted both Panama and Costa Rica to file official protests with CONCACAF.
Should Jamaica win, it will mark the first time a team other than the US, Mexico or Canada lifts the cup. Should Mexico, practically drowning in media pressure at this point due to their lackluster play, do what's expected of them, it will be a record seventh title, two more than the Americans.
GUARDADO, DOS SANTOS DOUBTFUL: Miguel 'Piojo' Herrera has some decisions to make when it comes to his starting XI. LA Galaxy forward Giovani Dos Santos continues to have issues with his left abductor, and Jonathan Dos Santos and captain Andres Guardado picked up knocks vs. Panama.
"There are a few players hurt," Herrera said on Saturday in his pregame news conference. "We'll see about Gio and Jona later in the afternoon. Guardado is better."
GOLD CUP TITLE WOULD "MEAN THE WORLD" TO BOYZ: Jamaica made history in Atlanta, but they have an opportunity to shock the world on Sunday against Mexico. Should the Reggae Boyz lift the cup, it would be their first-ever title, one Reading defender Michael Hector thinks would make waves around the world.
"People in England might think Jamaica is not as big as they think they are; if we do well in big tournaments, people will take notice," the 23-year-old told the Jamaica Observer. "For me it's just about putting Jamaica back on the map as it's a massive sporting country, and down the road we should be qualifying for the World Cup."
But what would a title mean to him personally?
"[Winning Gold Cup] would mean the world to me as all my family members from Jamaica are now living in London," Hector added. "So to bring a medal back home would obviously mean a lot and to my family which is a big part of me."
MCNUFF MISSES TRAINING: Speedster Jobi McAnuff missed training on Saturday as the Reggae Boyz prepared for one of the biggest matches in the history of the island nation. The Jamaica Observer reported that the Leyton Orient man is suffering from a "slight" foot concern, but team doctor Ivor O'Connor said McAnuff is expected to fit for the final on Sunday night.
EL TRI CORRECT ERRORS EN ROUTE TO FINAL: There's some, uh, controversy surrounding Mexico these days. Maybe you've heard.
But it's not just the refereeing that has people wondering about Mexico. Their play hasn't exactly wowed, and that means crushing pressure on Herrera.
"Now I’ve spoken with the boys – we all saw that the game wasn’t a good one and we were all conscious of that," Herrera said. We weren’t partying after that game – people were frustrated because they were aware of how they’d been doing the whole tournament to come out ahead, and we didn’t do that with Panama. We noticed that and that’s important, we have to correct some errors. Thankfully, we’re able to correct those errors while winning."
SCHAEFER CONVEYS KLINSMANN'S PRAISE: Jamaica head coach Winfried Schaefer says Jurgen Klinsmann went out of his way to praise the Reggae Boyz in the lead-up and aftermath of United States' upset loss in the Gold Cup semifinals.
“Before and after the match [Jurgen] told me my team is fantastic – organised and disciplined and playing German style, but with Jamaican passion and heart," Schaefer told the Jamaica Observer.
With Klinsmann under pressure after failing to meet expectations in the tournament, Schaefer also addressed the media and fan pressure that's shifted to his fellow German following a disappointing end to the tournament for the Americans.
“Jurgen had one problem in this match," Schaefer said. "He was under a lot of pressure because it’s very important for a coach of a big team when he plays against a small team. He can’t afford to lose."
"He knows what’s coming when he loses to a small country,” he added.