Can anyone stop El Tri? That is the big question as we move into the knockout stages of the 2011 Gold Cup. With three wins by a combined 14-1 margin, Mexico have been the biggest story of the tournament so far. On Saturday night at New Meadowlands Stadium in New Jersey, Guatemala will try their best to avoid being El Tri victim number four.
On paper it certainly doesn't look like a fair fight. Guatemala were lucky to come away with a scoreless draw against Honduras in their first match, and were totally outclassed in a 0-2 loss to Jamaica in game two. Guatemala did finally come alive for a 4-0 defeat of lowly Grenada, but that’s hardly even worth noting. Grenada are a team that gave up eleven goals in their first two matches, so scoring four against them was little surprise. The best you could say about Guatemala after the opening round is: a) they’re still playing, and b) despite just one win, they have only conceded two goals in the tournament.
Of course they haven't yet faced anything close to the powerful scoring machine that is El Tri.
The large gap in quality between the two teams is best illustrated by individual scoring numbers. Mexico have four players that have scored multiple goals in this year’s Gold Cup: Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez (5), Aldo De Nigris (2), Giovani Dos Santos (2), and Andres Guardado (2). Guatemala players with multiple goals? That would be zero.
Guatemala’s best scoring options are veteran striker Carlos Ruiz, and midfielder Marco Pappa. Both players scored against Grenada, but they will each have to work at least twice as hard to find the net against Mexico. The play of the El Tri backline has been overshadowed by the team’s big scoring numbers, but it must be noted that they have conceded just one goal in the tournament.
On the other side of the ball, Guatemala will have their hands full and then some trying to contain Chicharito up front, along with the attacking midfield trio of Guardado, Dos Santos, and Pablo Barrera. Those four players have already scored an impressive 10 goals combined in three games. It almost becomes a game of pick your poison for opposing teams. Even when Gold Cup scoring leader Chicharito doesn't find the back of the net, such as against Costa Rica, the team still has more than enough weapons to dominate play in the attacking third.
Playing with a roster of just 17 players, has proved little deterrent to Mexico in the last two games. Even through FIFA announced yesterday that they will be allowed to replace their suspended players for the rest of the Gold Cup, it hardly seems fair. El Tri certainly shouldn’t need any reinforcements against Guatemala, a team in many ways lucky to still be alive in the quarterfinal round.
Mexico vs. Guatemala can be seen in the U.S. on Univision, Saturday at 8pm eastern.