Mexico, runners-up in the 2021 Gold Cup, will play Honduras in the opening game for both teams on Sunday at NRG Stadium in Houston as they start their quest to climb back to the top of the CONCACAF mountain.
El Tri just finished third in the CONCACAF Nations League after defeating Panama 1-0 on Sunday, while La H were defeated 1-0 by Venezuela last week in a warm up game.
Mexico, the eight times champion, has had more success in the CONCACAF Gold Cup throughout the years than the co-hosts USA, who may have been pre-tournament favorites. The Tricolor has had tremendous success in this competition, making it to the final ten times in 16 editions and as far as the semifinals a record 13 times. However, they were denied a tenth title when they lost to the USA in the 2021 final in extra time.
So it should come as no surprise that Mexico is the overwhelming favorite to win Group B, which also includes Haiti, Honduras, and Qatar, and advance easily to the knockout rounds. However, plans were thrown into disarray this week when manager Diego Cocca was fired after only four months in charge. The decisive 3-0 loss to the USA in the CONCACAF Nations League semi-final served as the final nail in Cocca’s coffin. Jaime Lozano, a former national under-23 manager, will now manage Mexico, and he has some experience having led his nation to a bronze medal at the 2020 Olympics.
In the battle to go through their Group B rivals and into the quarterfinals, Honduras will be eager to seize on any instability in the Mexican camp. Although Los Catrachos were finalists in their own right in 1991, they have since struggled, winning just four of their previous 27 international competitions (D5, L18).
Mexico and the United States have faced each other five times in the past two years, making them well-known rivals. Honduras failed to score in any of the previous four matches (D1, L3), so they did not have any success. They’ll be hoping for better luck here, but Mexico is a team they’ve had trouble beating recently, having won just one of their previous 11 head to head matches (D3, L7), which included a 3-0 loss in the 2021 Gold Cup quarterfinal.
After scoring 23 goals for Feyenoord in 2022/23, Mexico will be counting on attacker Santiago Giménez to continue his impressive domestic success at the Gold Cup. Jorge Benguché, a striker for Honduras, had a great season at the club level as well, scoring 15 goals for Olimpia. This season, 13 of his 16 goals, 13 for club and nine for country have come after halftime.
Alexis Vega and Carlos Acevedo withdrew from this competition for Mexico due to injuries, and Jose Antonio Rodriguez and Roberto Alvarado will take their places.
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El Tri still has plenty of experience to draw from, even without the most capped player in Mexican history, Andres Guardado, who announced his retirement last month. Guillermo Ochoa made 19 appearances at the Gold Cup, and Edson Alvarez, Cesar Montes, and Orbelin Pineda are all returning after a disappointing World Cup campaign.
In Mexico’s Nations League match against Panama for third place, Jesus Gallardo scored just his second goal on the international stage, Israel Reyes made his ninth appearance of his career, Johan Vasquez made his ninth, while Uriel Antuna fell five shy of 50 appearances.
Romell Quioto, who scored three goals to lead Honduras at the 2021 Gold Cup, will not play in this competition due to a hamstring strain, while Francisco Martinez is the only Honduran player chosen for this competition who has not played for the senior team.
Jerry Bengtson, a 36 years old striker for Olimpia, was called up for this tournament after a lengthy absence. He has scored four goals in total during this competition. Alberth Elis, Bryan Acosta, and Luis Lopez all need one more appearance to reach the milestone of 60 caps each.
The last time Los Catrachos defeated Mexico was in 2017, with goals from Elis and Quioto and an own goal from Ochoa in between. Jorge Benguche was the last player to score for Los Catrachos in a match against a foreign team when the Hondurans fell to Canada 4-1 in their last Nations League group stage match.
Possible starting lineup for Mexico
Ochoa, Araujo, Montes, Vasquez, Gallardo, Herrera, Cordova, Pineda, Antuna, Gimenez and Martin.
Possible starting lineup for Honduras
L. Lopez, Nunez, Elvir, Vega, Santos, Flores, Acosta, Elis, Rosales, Pinto and Bengtson.
We predict: Mexico 2-0 Honduras
A few years ago, these two teams were among the best in the area, but neither has appeared to be performing quite as well lately.
We anticipate the seasoned Mexican backline will have an easier time shutting down Los Catrachos, while their assault should be able to break through against an inexperienced defensive unit. Playing without Quioto could be difficult for Honduras, who largely rely on the CF Montreal attacker.