Uriel Antuna made Mexico’s Gold Cup roster right before the buzzer sounded. National team head coach Tata Martino added the Los Angeles Galaxy winger the day before the team’s tournament opener against Cuba last Saturday.
It ended being a perfect decision, at least for one game. Antuna notched a hat trick as El Tri routed the Cubans 7-0 in the Rose Bowl. Raul Jimenez added two of his own in the 31st and 64th minutes.
Mexico has built off the momentum of its surprise knockout stage appearance at last summer’s World Cup, winning five straight. They face off against America’s other neighbor Canada tonight in Denver (10:30 p.m. EST, FS1 and Univision Deportes).
It’s been tough sledding for the Great White North against Mexico over the last two decades. The last time Canada won was back in 2000, while Mexico has won five times and tied thrice. The combined score in those eight contests is 13-3.
Let’s take a quick preview before projecting lineups for tonight’s group stage action.
Mexico vs. Canada Gold Cup Preview & Predictions
El Tri enters the night ranked No. 18 overall in the FIFA World Rankings, while the Canadians sit at No. 78. However, it’s been nearly two years since they last lost, which was a 2-1 decision to Jamaica in the Gold Cup quarterfinals.
With that said, the competition has mostly been lacking. Canada beat up on the Virgin Islands, Dominica, Saint Kitts, French Guiana and Martinique by a combined score of 22-1. The only non-Caribbean/South American nation on the docket was No. 119 New Zealand, which was a 1-0 triumph.
While the offense seems to be clicking after the 4-0 rout over Martinique, the defense was worse than the shutout indicated, as Gabe Salgado of Athlon Sports writes.
While Martinique managed to get off 12 shots against them, Canada limited the French island nation to just 45 percent possession, drew 16 fouls, stole the ball from them on 24 occasions, and caused them to pick up a yellow card. Mexico offers a significant upgrade in talent, but Canada has proved that they are prepared.
Mexico will not be intimidated by chippiness, and should be able to hold the possession advantage.
After some peppering of the goaltender, watch for El Tri to light up Canada in the second half.
Pick: Mexico 4, Canada 1
Projected Starting XI for Mexico vs. Canada
Based off a 4-3-3 formation used against Cuba.
Projected Starting XI for Canada
Based off of a 4-2-3-1 formation against Martinique.
Mexico Roster for Gold Cup