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Copa America Centenario offers Mexico genuine chance at history

Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Excitement has been building for months. It's by far the most glamorous futbol tournament to take place in North America since the 1994 World Cup. It presents Mexico with a historic opportunity to write a big chapter in their 23-year Copa America history. The Copa America Centenario is here.

Mexico arrive to this tournament with high expectations. The narrative has changed. No longer an overachieving outsider, El Tri is seen as a genuine contender for the title.

Part of that is because Mexico will be the unofficial hosts of this tournament. The irony, of course, is matches will take place in large American football stadiums throughout the United States, but it will be their neighbors from the south that are expected to fill them to capacity.

That's all the more relevant here because while Mexico will probably have other chances to win the Copa America in the future, none will be as opportune as this one. Mexico carry with them the power of a raucous home crowd, and as Chile showed last year, the crowd can be a force apart.

There is also the fact that they have a superb collection of players in tip-top shape playing abroad. The way Hector Moreno, Andres Guardado, Hector Herrera, and Miguel Layun performed through the course of the last European season give El Tri fans reason for hope.

But none will be in front of more television screens than the charismatic Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez. At 28, Chicharito is well aware that this is his moment. Fitter than ever, Chicharito scored an astounding 26 goals in 40 appearances for Bayer Leverkusen. Here, he is just two goals shy from matching Jared Borgetti's record of most goals scored for the Mexico National team, and he may well be the key to unlocking opponent's defenses.

Plenty of attention will also be paid on Jesus "Tecatito" Corona. The twinkle-toed winger is another resource waiting to be unleashed by Mexico coach Juan Carlos Osorio, and one player capable making his power count in the final third of the pitch.

Finally, momentum can be everything. The bottom line is Mexico are unbeaten in their last 19 games. What's more, Juan Carlos Osorio is perfect in front of El Tri, winning all seven of his matches and conceding zero goals in the process.

Osorio, however, has had a relatively easy time. In a tournament like this one, the situation demands a little more caution. Adaptability will be key, and under Osorio, Mexico has gone through frequent alterations. Against more difficult opponents, extra protection has been provided with the inclusion of a third center-back. In conditions of technical superiority, on the other hand, Osorio likes to have more control of the ball.

In any case, Mexico will be one of the favorites to advance from their group. Beyond that, however, a match-up against Argentina or Chile could test Mexico's chances at history. For now, let's all enjoy what promises to an exciting start to this Copa America.