Nicaragua v Mexico, Gold Cup, July 8, 2009
For the majority of the 90s CONCACAF was Mexico’s region. El Tri were far and away the most experienced and talented side in central America and stood alone as the big dog in their part of the world. But much has changed in the last decade, Mexico have regressed while their peers have moved to close the gap, and matches against minnows such as Nicaragua can no longer be dismissed out of hand as resulting in a Mexican win.
The Gold Cup stands as proof of Mexico’s falling stature. While Mexico racked up three Gold Cup titles in the 1990s, El Tri have scooped just one title of the last five Gold Cups played this decade evidencing the trend that the Mexicans have fallen well short of dominating their regional foes in the biennial tournament.
That said, a win in this year’s competition will go some way to restoring self-belief in Mexico, a boost which is hugely in need considering that they sit in fourth place and out of an automatic spot in their World Cup qualifying group.
Despite the low ebb in which El Tri find themselves, backing a Nicaragua win would seem a huge long shot. Mexico cannot expect to simply show up and stroll to a comfortable victory, but manager Javier Aguirre appears to be fully aware of that fact having called up an experienced squad for the tournament.
30-year-old Gerardo Torrado, a two-time World Cup veteran with almost 100 international matches under his belt, has been drafted into the squad in order to provide the defensive steel in from of the Mexican backline. Elsewhere, 29-year-old Omar Bravo and 32-year-old Guillermo Franco have both been included in the competition to add further experience and professionalism aimed at leading Mexico to the title.
Aguirre has made sure though to balance his squad with fresh blood. Puebla midfielder Luis Miguel Noriega will be looking to add to his two caps while 26-year-old centre-back Edgar Duenas will be looking to make himself into a mainstay in the international arena at the heart of the defence.
Then, adding the sparkle up-top, all eyes will focus on Arsenal’s Carlos Vela and Tottenham’s Giovani Dos Santos. Unfortunately for the two youngsters, much will be expected of them if Mexico are to make the final. While this could become the making of the young talents, failure would leave huge question-marks over the future of Mexican football.
Ranked a lowly 135th in the Fifa table, just behind Botswana and one place above Niger, sit Nicaragua, for whom this will be there first ever match in the Gold Cup. Unfortunately we know nothing about the state of football in Nicaragua, but if they manage to pull off a victory then without question this match will be one of the biggest upsets in football history.
101predicts: Nicaragua 0 - Mexico 2