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2021 Gold Cup match preview: Mexico vs Guatemala

Mexico will face a Guatemala side that lost their opener against El Salvador and should be very defensive.

SOCCER: JUL 10 Concacaf Gold Cup - Mexico v Trinidad & Tobago Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Mexico will hope to pick up their first win in a tournament after a terrible start against Guatemala. Guatemala had failed to qualify to the Gold Cup before taking the place of Curaçao, who had to pull out of the tournament because of COVID-19. Guatemala are in even bigger trouble after losing their opener against El Salvador, leaving them in last place of Group A.

Mexico’s start to the tournament couldn’t have been more of a disaster. Against the weakest team in the group, Trinidad and Tobago, they were expected to get a big victory to start. Unfortunately everything in the game turned meaningless when Hirving Lozano got pushed in the area and crashed into goalkeeper Marvin Phillip getting knocked out. Lozano will be out for 4-6 weeks with a neck injury, missing the rest of the tournament but at least with a better prognosis than first feared. While first feared that “Chucky” would need an operation for his injury, it was deemed unnecessary although he will still be under observation. The injury rattled Mexico as expected, and it was aggravated by a terrible performance from referee Ricardo Montero, who didn’t call a penalty on the play that injured Lozano and proceeded to constantly fail to call fouls for Mexico. Later they would take away a goal scored by a Mexico on a very dubious offside. Mexico finished with a 0-0 tie in a game where it was tough to get a reading after the emotional hit that was Lozano’s injury. Mexico will have to improve against Guatemala and we should also see how Lozano’s absence hurts the team. The fact that FMF’s president Yon De Luisa announced that they were going to ask CONCACAF for action against Montero also should mean that there will be a better job on refereeing in the match against Guatemala. Although Guatemala should also be a defensive squad, physically they are far from imposing as Trinidad was although you can’t get a read from the match if the game was reffed correctly.

Guatemala failed to make it to the Gold Cup after losing a penalty kick shootout with Guadalupe before Curaçao’s COVID-19 problems made them pull out of the tournament. It wasn’t enough to save coach Amarini Villatoro’s job as he was fired. Interim coach Rafael Loredo made his debut in their first match against El Salvador, where they lost 2-0. El Salvador was the better side as Guatemala sat back, but neither side played a great match. They should have a similar plan against Mexico, which at times has paid off for them. In the 2015 Gold Cup, they got a 0-0 tie against Mexico by bunkering, although in that game the referee failed to give Mexico a penalty kick after a clear handball from a Guatemalan defender. Yet Mexico is going to need the result, and they are a faster and more physically imposing side than Guatemala. Mexico should have gotten the win against a Trinidad side that took advantage of the momentum hit that was an injury to Lozano and yet still only got one opportunity in 90 minutes while sitting back all game. It will be tough for Guatemala to keep up their level of play, especially when they failed to do so against El Salvador, which is an inferior side to Mexico with a lot less speed and where they were physically outmatched. It should be tough for a repeat of their last match, a 3-0 friendly win in Estadio Azteca in 2020, where Mexico completely dominated them but Mexico should be heavily favored.

Their second match in Group A has increased in the importance for Mexico. Coach Gerardo Martino took an A squad to the Gold Cup sans the Olympic tournament players and the decision has already backfired with Lozano’s injury. If they don’t get the result of a victory, things will become very complicated very quickly for Martino, as not only Mexico’s performance in the tournament would be at risk but his job will be questioned if they couldn’t get a good performance in the Gold Cup with their A squad as the much tougher World Cup qualifiers are about to start.