Bold Predictions for CONCACAF Gold Cup Quarterfinals
We're down to the last eight in the 2013 edition of the CONCACAF Gold Cup.
Just 180 minutes of play separate the teams from a spot in the final at Soldier Field, Chicago on July 28.
Standout performers as we go into the quarter-finals are the United States and on current form it could be hard to look past them as eventual winners of the competition.
However, at this stage you can be sure that each team will be dreaming of glory—outsiders Panama have already confounded the experts once with a group stage win over a lacklustre Mexico.
A strong Costa Rican side will also fancy their chances of progression.
Let's take a look at the quarter-final matchups and some predictions for who could be contesting the semi-finals.
Mexico vs. Trinidad & Tobago
After a hugely disappointing showing against Panama in their opening 2013 Gold Cup Group A game, Mexico redeemed themselves slightly with wins over Canada and Martinique.
Yet those results are fooling no one.
Jose Manuel "Chepo" de la Torre's side are enduring a torrid time of late.
Mexico have failed to score in games against Costa Rica, Jamaica and the United States this year and the win against Canada was only the third in the calendar year for "El Tri".
A side that's devoid of the potency of Javier Hernandez and Giovani dos Santos have lacked any sort of true cutting edge throughout this tournament.
The only possible highlight for fans—who have already made their displeasure crystal clear—has been that Fabian has found the net in each game.
That it took a 90th-minute goal by Ponce to take the game away from Martinique in the last group match tells you all you need to know.
By contrast, Trinidad and Tobago have performed well so far.
Stoke City's Kenwyne Jones has been especially impressive, and his goal and assist were enough to see the Soca Warriors past an already-through Honduras 2-0 in the final Group B game—a result that guaranteed their own passage to the quarter-finals.
Jones will use his physical presence and Premier League credentials to exert as much attacking threat as possible for Trinidad and Tobago.
Ably assisted by a creative midfield including Kevin Molino, Jones should wreak havoc amongst a poor defence lacking in confidence.
As a result, expect Mexico to go on an all-out attack from the first whistle in this one.
Fabian aside, Rafael Marquez Lugo and Raul Jimenez will need to step up to the plate and produce the goods to see the Mexicans progress.
That there has been a lack of genuine attacking threat from the Mexicans thus far this Gold Cup sees them exit at this stage.
Mexico 0-2 Trinidad and Tobago.
Panama vs. Cuba
Cuba scraped into the quarter-finals by the skin of their teeth.
Only a 90th-minute goal by Jenier Marquez in a 4-0 last Group C game win vs. Belize saw the Cubans progress as the second best placed team finishing third in their group.
Martinique were the fall guys having been primed for a last eight spot until Marquez's late intervention.
That the Leones del Caribe had already lost 3-0 to Costa Rica and 4-1 to the United States gives you a flavour of the topsy-turvy nature of the 2013 edition of the Gold Cup.
There have been no real plus points for Walter Benitez's men so far this tournament. And herein lies his main problem in trying to rally the troops to push for a last-four berth.
The midfield of Joel and Jaime Colome, Jorge Luis Corrales and Renay Malblanche have been particularly poor with opposition driving through at like knives through butter.
Panama started the tournament with their first ever victory over Mexico.
The dire straits that the Mexicans find themselves in shouldn't detract from the enormity of the performance of Julio Dely Valdes' men. It was an astonishing performance and result.
Two more clean sheets against Martinique and Canada saw Panama as the unbeaten surprise winners of Group A.
Gabriel Torres was the two-goal Panamanian hero against the Mexicans;expect him to shine in this match against a largely static Cuban defence.
With Marcos Sanchez and Roberto Chen the only two players not to be rested in Panama's final group game, Dely Valdes has the luxury of a virtually fully rested XI for this match.
Luis Mejia has not really been tested in the Panama goal thus far this tournament.
The lacklustre Cuban front line of Jose Ciprian Alfonso, Yoandir Puga and attacking midfielder Alberto Gomez really need to be on point for this one.
Walter Benitez perhaps goes into this one more in hope than expectation.
Confidence in-game can often be the difference between winning and losing and for that reason Panama to sneak this by the odd goal in a low-scoring affair.
Panama 1-0 Cuba
Honduras vs. Costa Rica
Costa Rica's Patrick Pemberton has provided a virtual one man wall against all-comers this tournament.
And Pemberton hasn't been the only positive for Jorge Luis Pinto's side.
A solitary goal conceded is evidence of an outstanding defensive display across all three group games, and props must go to Roy Miller, Carlos Johnson and Junior Diaz amongst others.
The Costa Ricans are a strong, solid unit who may have a good chance to progress against a Honduran side that topped Group B but lost the only game of note against Trinidad and Tobago.
With the greatest respect, wins over Haiti and El Salvador—in the 90th minute—are not the best barometer in which to measure the progress of this Honduran side.
The Hondurans were out-muscled by Kenwyne Jones et al, and Costa Rica's all round excellence will provide a much sterner test than Trinidad and Tobago were able to muster.
A performance akin to the last time these two teams met, when Pinto's men could only manage a single goal win, is what's required this time out.
Jose David Velasquez will be a big miss in the Honduran defence, his red card against Trinidad and Tobago ruling him out of this one.
Expect manager Luis Suarez to keep with much the same team that he fielded in the first two group games.
Costa Rica should be much too strong for their opponents. Only narrowly beaten by the United States, Pinto has prepared well for each game.
The team are galvanized, fired up and playing well. This togetherness should see them through to the semi-finals at a canter.
Honduras 0-3 Costa Rica
USMNT vs. El Salvador
It's fair to say that the pressure on the USMNT has cranked up a notch.
A goal difference of plus nine and three acceptable performances have seen Jurgen Klinsmann's charges through to the quarter-final stage with ease.
If Landon Donovan can continue to provide the sort of through balls that Brek Shea benefited from against Costa Rica, then we are in for a treat.
With Jose Torres, Stu Holden and DaMarcus Beasley already providing able assistance in this tournament, it's hard to fathom how we will be witnessing anything other than a United States quarter-final victory.
Rodolfo Zelaya has scored all three of El Salvador's goals in the competition so far with strike partners Mark Lester Blanco, Rafael Burgos, Dustin Corea contributing little.
A zero goal difference suggests tight defensive performances throughout this competition, but when you consider that their only win was a sneaky 1-0 against Haiti, it puts their tournament into some perspective.
Agustin Castillo's men will have their work cut out to get anything from the match.
If El Salvador manage to sneak any sort of result, it will send shockwaves throughout US soccer.
Expect an El Salvadorian defence of Victor Turcios, Xavier Garcia, Marcelo Posadas and possibly Steven Purdy to be right up against it from the first whistle.
It will take a true backs-against-the-wall performance to stop the expected full-on United States goal threat.
Tip Wondolowski to get a second hat-trick of the tournament and the hosts to cruise through to the semis.
Keep an eye on the possession stats—this could get embarrasing.
USMNT 5-0 El Salvador