Mexico's dream start to life under coach Juan Carlos Osorio has yet shown no signs of fading at the Copa America Centenario, and El Tri could now clinch a place in the quarterfinals with a victory over Jamaica on Thursday. Osorio has a perfect record in eight matches since taking charge with a victory over Uruguay in Mexico’s opening match of the competition. And even the concession of a first goal under his stewardship couldn’t dampen the continued positivity after a 3-1 win over the record 15-time Copa America winners.
Now a win over Jamaica at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, combined with Uruguay failing to beat Venezuela in Group C’s other game on Thursday, would take El Tri through to the knockout phase. It would be tempting to believe the hardest work has already been done. In what was viewed as a battle for top spot in Glendale, Arizona, Mexico put in a stirring first-half display, taking the lead through the quickest own goal in Copa America history against a Uruguay side missing star man Luis Suarez.
The second half saw a wobble and a Uruguay equalizer following a red card for both sides, but Mexico came strong again in the final minutes to soar to victory with goals from Rafa Márquez and Héctor Herrera. It was the Marquez performance that most caught the eye. The 37-year-old has once more defied calls for his international career to be brought to an end and showed how important he can still be, not only in organizing the defense but also in orchestrating the attack.
The former Barcelona’s man finish for his 17th international goal was spectacular, but it was a trademark diagonal pass to Andres Guardado that led to the opening goal which was indicative of the playmaking qualities he brings to El Tri. Providing it is determined that he has the strength to play two games in five days, Marquez’s leadership could be especially important against Jamaica, when the next most experienced player in the squad, Guardado, will be suspended.
There could be more than just a single change to Mexico’s lineup, however. Osorio has shown himself flexible with both personnel and tactics in his short time in charge and he has plenty of options in his squad. The 20-year-old starlet Hirving “Chucky” Lozano, linked with a transfer to Manchester United in recent days, made an impact off the bench against Uruguay, as did Benfica striker Raúl Jiménez. Osorio also suggested ahead of the tournament that he would rotate his three goalkeepers, meaning there could be an opportunity for Guillermo Ochoa and Jesús Corona.
And Mexico has reason to be confident of getting a victory on Thursday. In the last 10 matches against Jamaica, Mexico has won eight and lost just one. The last time the sides met came last July when Mexico triumphed 3-1 in the final of the Gold Cup.
The Reggae Boyz still impressed at that tournament, notably knocking off the United States in the semifinal. But it has not been a great time for Jamaica since the Gold Cup final defeat.
Jamaica has taken just four points from its first four games in the penultimate round of Concacaf World Cup qualifying. And the Caribbean side, led by veteran German coach Winfried Schäfer, got off to the worst possible start at the Copa America, losing what appeared a must-win game against Venezuela.
Prediction: Jamaica is no pushover, but Mexico, even without Guardado and with other potential changes to the lineup, should be too strong. Not only is Osorio showing tactical shrewdness but the team appears a happy and united group. Expect a fairly comfortable Mexico win.
Predicted score: Mexico 2-0 Jamaica