Copa America Centenario is officially underway, and Mexico, the unofficial host of the tournament, is set to play their first match on Sunday night at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.
El Tri, who is coming into the Copa riding a 19-game, unbeaten streak, will take on their toughest opponent of the group stage, the Uruguayan National Team.
La Celeste will be without their top goal scorer and arguably best player, Luis Suarez, for all of the group stage. They are also riding a streak of their own as they have not lost their last 4 games.
This will be the 6th time both teams meet at a Copa America—with 2 victories each and 1 draw.
Juan Carlos Osorio, whose tenure at the helm of El Tri has gone off relatively without a hitch, has managed to defeat every opponent put in front of him and not concede a goal since taking over. While his numbers cannot be denied, recent call-ups along with inconsistencies in his starting lineups have garnished criticism from the Mexican media. His coaching philosophy, largely dictated by strategizing against each individual opponent and using different formations and players out of position in order to exploit the adversary's weaknesses, is an approach that is fairly new to El Tri.
Aside from a few notable absences, Osorio has assembled one of the strongest rosters in recent history with multifaceted players that play comfortably in different areas of the pitch. The roster is a mix of youth, explosiveness, poise, and experience that features a large contingency of players that compete in Europe.
Leading the way against Uruguay will be Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez. Chicharito has been on fire for his club since late 2015 and will be looking to become the all-time leading scorer for El Tri during the tournament. Alongside Chich, Osorio is likely to employ my two candidates for breakout star of the cup: Jesus "Tecatito" Corona and Hirving "Chucky" Lozano. The pair are Mexico's most explosive and talented wingers, both possessing the ability to take on defenders and exploit backlines with their individualities. Mexico's captain, Andres Guaradado, who, as of recent, has been the best player for El Tri, will be pivotal in the midfield. His pairing with Hector Herrera has been consistent over the past few years, and they will look to stifle a generally stingy Uruguayan midfield.
The biggest area of concern for Osorio's team, against a dangerous Uruguayan attack, is the backline. The only dependable center-back has been Hector Moreno. This is evident in the recent call-up of Mexico Legend, Rafa Marquez, who had a subpar 2016 but still seems like one of the only options to pair up with Moreno. Diego Reyes, once billed as the heir apparent to Marquez, has not been able to develop into what everyone hoped for and seems to always play timid and inconsistent when he hits the pitch for El Tri.
Along with Moreno, Paul Aguilar and Miguel Layun have also been consistent in their wingback roles for El Tri. Although they are adequate defenders, they both have the tendency to push pretty high up the flanks. While this is okay versus the quality of opposition Mexico is used to in CONCACAF, Uruguay might look to expose Mexico in those areas when the wingbacks push up.
Even though the 15-time Copa America champions, La Celeste, will be without their best player, the team is still littered with talent such as: Edison Cavani, Deigo Godin, and Alvaro Pereira. They also benefit from the consistency of playing under the same system for the last 10 years. "El Maestro" Tabarez has been at the helm since 2006 and has made Uruguay a contender at every international tournament they have participated in. La Celeste, a perpetual Copa America contender, will enter Sunday night as the underdog and will look to pull off the upset in front a crowd that will likely be 95% Mexican.
Mexico, who has been a perennial invitee to the South American championship since 1993, has found success in the past and was a runner-up on two occasions. With the tournament being played in Mexico's backyard, El Tri has its best opportunity to finally bring home the Copa America. Sunday, the quest for the cup will begin, and a victory over Uruguay would be a step in the right direction for Osorio and his men.
Uruguay 1-0 Mexico - June 12, 2011 - Copa America 2011
Alvaro Pereira scored the lone goal in the final game of the group stage versus a Mexico B team that was sent home early.
PREFERRED MEXICO LINE-UP
Mexico (4-3-3) Ochoa; Aguilar, Reyes, Moreno, Layun, Herrera, Molina, Guardado, Tecatito Corona, Chicharito, Lozano
Mexico (3-1-4-1-1) Talavera; Moreno, Marquez, Araujo, Molina, Herrera, Guardado, Aquino, Lozano, Peña, Chicharito.
Uruguay (4-3-3) Silva; Gaston Silva, Victorino, Pereira, Arevalo, Vecino, Lodeiro, Sanchez, Cavani, Rolan