24 teams arrived at the Gold Cup this year and now only four remain as we get set to crown the champions this weekend. Before we do that we need to find out who will compete in the final with Haiti and Mexico battling it out in the first semi-final in Arizona in the early hours of Wednesday morning.
Both these sides had to battle hard to come through their respective quarter finals so we know how much they want it. Mexico are the overwhelming favourites but Haiti are making Houdini look tame with their escapes in this competition and should not be underestimated.
What is there left to say about Haiti that hasn’t already been said? They are far from the best side left in this competition, in fact there is a strong claim to suggest they are the worst team remaining, but what they might lack in a bit of quality they certainly make up for in heart and spirit and who knows just how far that can take them. They were dead and buried at half time against Canada in the quarter final but produced a miraculous turnaround.
What I like about Haiti so far in this tournament is their commitment in attack. They don’t go forward with one or two men, they flood forward and face the consequences should it all go wrong. That leaves them vulnerable defensively but as a neutral I would rather see a side go down having a go than tamely limping out as we’ve seen a few teams do in international competition this summer.
I would be surprised if we have seen the best of Mexico in this tournament but if we have then you would have to say they look vulnerable. While they are unbeaten to date, Canada, Martinique and Costa Rica have all given Mexico plenty of problems defensively so that is something they are going to need to sort out if they are going to go all the way in this tournament.
One area where they have looked good enough is up front where Wolves striker Raul Jimenez sets the standard in this competition. He has troubled defences throughout the tournament and although others have got more goals than him his presence has threatened all opposite back lines. If Mexico can add a ruthlessness to his threat they should be fine.
Derrick Etienne Jr was surprisingly left on the bench from the start against Canada in the quarter final but he could be involved from the off here as Haiti chase an unlikely place in their first Gold Cup final.
Mexico will build their side around Raul Jimenez and Andres Guardado but LA Galaxy wide man Uriel Antuna could be a key may man down the right hand side for Mexico who will also be looking for Roberto Alvarado to deliver the goods.
I’m looking forward to this semi-final because of the intrigue and entertaining element that Haiti bring to it. It is that entertainment and vulnerability that makes me think we are going to see a few goals in this semi-final. I don’t think Haiti have come this far through what they have gone through to shut up shop and look to contain and Mexico should in theory be able to exploit that.
That all makes me think that over 2.5 goals is the way to play this match. Haiti have the ability to be heavily exposed at this level but I would be surprised if they don’t cause Mexico issues. This has not been a tight Mexico defence so far in the tournament to date and you wouldn’t think it is going to change now. Over 2.5 goals will do me.
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