Mexico and Panama will meet again at the 2013 Gold Cup, this time in the semifinals. Los Canaleros defeated El Tri 2-1 in the opening game and thus won Group A. This rematch means a lot for Mexico's future.
The team is not going through its best moment. This year, Jose Manuel de la Torre has not been able to grab a win at the Estadio Azteca, which marks Mexico’s worst record in a World Cup qualifying process.
At the Confederations Cup, El Tri struggled to find rhythm; the footballers had a sense of urgency that prevented them from shining on the pitch. Eventually, Mexico left Brazil after the group stage.
Although the team that "Chepo" called up for the Gold Cup is an alternate squad, this is not an excuse for their recent performances.
These footballers are undisputed starters with their respective teams, with all of them being members of the Liga MX, the country’s top league and arguably CONCACAF’s best, too.
It is worrying to see their lack of creativity and passion. They do not work as a team, hence Mexico needs an individual effort to have a real goal opportunity.
There are exceptions to every rule, of course. Marco Fabian, Raul Jimenez, Miguel Layun, Luis Montes and Jonathan Orozco have managed to take the immense responsibility to put El Tri in the semifinals.
The match will be very different from the one they played during the group stage. For starters, Mexico will have Layun in the right side of the pitch, which was something that did not happen in the previous game.
The America defender has proven to be a key player in Mexico’s attack through the sideline. He has two assists so far, and he clearly wants to get a chance to be with El Tri’s first team.
But Mexico is not the only one that will add a game changer to the game. Blas Perez is back after attending some Dallas FC commitments, and he will start the match, too.
Perez has been a cornerstone when it comes to unbalancing the rivals, especially when he teams up with Gabriel Torres.
For de la Torre, losing this game will mean the biggest failure of his term as Mexico’s manager.
Fans and media may not like that the team loses to Brazil or Italy, but it is understandable, especially when the group does not surrender.
But when they play with a rival like Panama that has never qualified to the World Cup, has never won a Gold Cup and sits 51st in the FIFA ranking, there are no grounds for being defeated.
Speaking of de la Torre’s future, he better win this match, otherwise he will have more pressure than ever and in the worst possible moment. Mexico will receive Honduras at the Azteca in September in their fourth chance to secure a victory at home at the Hexagonal.
If El Tri draws another game there, I do not see how the Mexican Football Federation could justify Chepo’s continuity.
Defeating Los Canaleros is a must for Los Verdes; doing it by showing the world their football superiority is a breaking point.