With the FIFA World Cup around the corner, we decided to take a look at the current standings of the four countries and see who is poised to win.
Then there were four of them. The CONCACAF Gold Cup gets down to business this week with a thrilling semifinal matchup between Qatar and the United States on Thursday night, followed by the final on Sunday in Las Vegas.
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The last four teams have had a tournament of ebbs and flows, with all of them answering some lingering concerns in their quarterfinal victories over the weekend. Who seems to be in good shape going into the semifinals? What have we discovered about these opposing viewpoints? ESPN’s writers prepare you for the semifinals by breaking into how each club earned their berth.
Jump to: Canada | Mexico | Qatar | United States of America
CANADA: The next generation is poised to take on larger and better challenges.
In recent years, Canada has made tremendous strides as a soccer country, and their 2-0 victory against Costa Rica on Sunday night may have signified a shift in the CONCACAF hierarchy.
Despite the absence of European-based stars Alphonso Davies, Jonathan David, and Cyle Larin, as well as promising young Toronto FC forward Ayo Akinola, who suffered a torn right ACL in last Sunday’s loss to the United States, Canada easily defeated World Cup regulars Costa Rica, cementing their position as CONCACAF’s third-best team.
– Report: Canada defeated Costa Rica and will play Mexico in the semifinals.
Junior Hoilett, an English Football League veteran, and Stephen Eustaquio, a midfielder based in Portugal, scored the goals, while Canada’s defense held Costa Rica — the world’s 50th-ranked nation, according to FIFA, and a team that has qualified for two straight World Cups and four of the last five — without a single shot on goal. The most important lesson will be that they accomplished it without players like Davies and David, indicating that they are now a country capable of competing in regional tournaments and qualifying for World Cups on a regular basis.
While Canada has always produced the occasional great player, a “Golden Generation” is beginning to develop, with Davies (20) and David (21) leading a group of strong young players aged 24 and under that also includes Gold Cup standouts Akinola, Eustaquio, Tajon Buchanan, and Theo Corbeanu. There’s no reason Canada shouldn’t qualify for Qatar 2022 with veterans like Hoilett, Larin, Lucas Cavallini, Mark-Anthony Kaye, and Steven Vitoria.
But first and foremost, they face powerful Mexico in a Gold Cup quarterfinal on Thursday night. John Herdman’s team has already exceeded expectations by reaching the semifinals, but a decisive victory against Mexico would go a long way toward establishing Canada as a soccer country. Canada defeated the United States for the first time in 34 years in 2019, and a victory over Mexico on Thursday — a team it has only beaten three times in its history and hasn’t beaten since 2000 — would be the next step in the country’s development as a CONCACAF force. Gus Elvin’s quote
MEXICO: Martino’s team is peaking at the perfect moment.
Mexico had the ideal opponent in Honduras, which was weakened by injuries and sickness following a poor group stage performance. During the first half, El Tri was relentless in attack, scoring three goals in 12 minutes and having two more disallowed due to offside rulings.
– Mexico defeats Honduras in the Gold Cup quarterfinals
In its quarterfinal victory against Honduras, Mexico was unflappable. Getty Images/Omar Vega
Mexico’s thrashing of Honduras on Saturday almost equaled its attacking output for the whole group stage, with manager Gerardo “Tata” Martino using his 4-3-3 formation to push via the flanks for the majority of the game. The Argentine coach used his lateral defenders to push up the field and create mismatches against a troubled Honduran back line, giving El Tri’s forwards plenty of chances. Because all three goals came directly or indirectly following a cross from the wide area, the plan worked well.
Despite facing a barrage of criticism from the Mexican press and supporters leading up to the quarterfinal, striker Rogelio Funes Mori put in a strong showing up front, scoring the game’s first goal and posing a constant danger to Honduran goalkeeper Luis Lopez. Funes Mori and winger Orbelin Pineda established a potent attacking combination (Pineda scored his second goal of the tournament off a header), helped in part by Luis Rodriguez, Jesus Corona, and Jonathan dos Santos’ strong performances. Honduras, who was unable to field many regular players due to COVID-19 (or Alberth Elis’ injury), seemed to be outmatched for the duration of the game.
After a difficult group stage, Mexico enters the semifinals versus Canada with a fresh feeling of anticipation in its quest to win the Gold Cup for the second time. At this point, it’s impossible to see any prospective adversary being able to resist Mexico’s reinvigorated broad offensive. Eric Gomez’s remark
QATAR: I’m not here to fill up the blanks.
Given that Qatar came at the Gold Cup as the reigning Asian Cup winners, it should have occurred sooner, but when establishing a 3-0 lead against El Salvador on Saturday, something snapped in the minds of the watching public: This squad can play. As is, it shouldn’t come as a surprise if the Qataris win the Gold Cup. Of course, it would require some luck, but Qatar has been probably the most exciting side in the competition after four games, thanks to its great dedication to offensive play.
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– El Salvador is being held off by Qatar, according to reports.
Qatar, as the host of the 2022 World Cup, required such a test. This isn’t a club that expects to go all the way on home turf next year; putting up a decent, competitive performance is a good way to gauge success. And, as the Gold Cup has shown, Qatar has a very excellent recipe for compensating for a dearth of high-end talent: consistency.
Part of the difficulty of international soccer is the lack of practice time for the players, yet Qatar began six players from Al Sadd, a local powerhouse, in the quarterfinals, and everyone on the tournament roster plays club soccer in the Qatar Stars League. There’s a comfort level there, as shown by their ability to generate consistent opportunities over the past several weeks. Qatar boasts a pair of excellent strikers in Almoez Ali and Akram Afif who are the team’s strength. Both spent time playing professionally in Europe before returning to Qatar.
The defensive outcomes have been less constant. On Saturday night, El Salvador came close to erasing a three-goal deficit, while Panama scored three goals against Meshaal Barsham in the opening. In the semifinal, expect a wide-open match versus the United States. Kyle Bonagura (Kyle Bonagura)
The United States men’s national team’s win against Jamaica in the Gold Cup quarterfinals demonstrated the team’s progress throughout the tournament. Some players, such as center backs Miles Robinson and James Sands, have steadily progressed. The game’s lone goal was scored by Matthew Hoppe, who went into overdrive.
Despite the close result, the United States looked considerably better in their quarterfinal victory against Jamaica. Getty Images/ANDY JACOBSOHN/AFP
Others have had inconsistent development, although some of the performances on Sunday were of the bounce-back type. This was particularly apparent in the United States’ midfield, which was helped by a tactical change made by manager Gregg Berhalter. Gianluca Busio was primarily played as a No. 6 in support of Kellyn Acosta and Sebastian Lletget against Canada, but his mandate included the ability to get forward on occasion. However, as the game progressed, the three faded, with Busio in particular failing to make an impression.
As a result, Berhalter changed several positions, putting Acosta back in a more conventional No. 6 role and moving Busio farther upfield. It worked well, as almost everything improved, including possession (65.8% vs. 34.2% ) and duels (65.8% vs. 34.2% ). (55.6 percent to 44.4 percent ). It also worked to the strengths of the individual players, with Acosta providing more bite and Busio being able to contribute more to the attack. On the ball, Lletget is as deft and patient as ever. The United States became stronger as the game progressed, and replacements Cristian Roldan and Gyasi Zardes made important contributions as well.
Those three players’ cohesiveness and organization bode well for the forthcoming semifinal versus Qatar. The Maroons have looked fantastic in transition, and although Jamaica did threaten on a few occasions, the American midfield did a great job of disrupting those attempts. The range of Acosta is very important.
The semi-final against the defending Asian champions on Thursday will be tough, but the US squad seems to be gelling at the perfect moment. They may make it to the final if they have another growth surge. Jeff Carlisle’s quote