Almost a full year since Mexico’s defeat sent the team crashing out of the 2015 Copa America, El Tri could ensure its progress to this year’s quarterfinals with a victory over Jamaica on Thursday. In their last 20 matches, Mexico have not conceded a loss and have a 10-match winning streak. Eight of those wins have come under coach Juan Carlos Osorio, including a 3-1 victory over Uruguay on Sunday that further Mexico’s credentials as serious contenders to land the trophy.
The run of form began at the 2015 Gold Cup, culminating in a triumph over Jamaica in the final, through the interim reign of Ricardo “Tuca” Ferretti and victory over the United States in a Confederations Cup playoff. And it has been expanded by Osorio, whose appointment underwhelmed many at the time but increasingly looks to have been a shrewd decision. The Colombian, however, is happy to give credit to his players.
“The most important thing has been to gain the trust of the players, because without doubt, it is through them that we can implement what we planned,” he said at a press conference ahead of Thursday’s game at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California.
“We knew it would take some time, and we believe we still have that responsibility or have that responsibility with the group of players to enthrall and attract them by our way of working, making everyone feel part of the group, giving opportunities to all and see the team get stronger. We are not big on self-praise and are convinced that all the credit goes to the great group of players we have.”
A victory over Jamaica would be enough to send Mexico into the last eight of the Copa America Centenario, if Uruguay fails to beat Venezuela in Group C’s earlier game Thursday. The biggest concern for Osorio heading into the game will be how to replace Andrés Guardado.
The experienced midfielder will serve a one-match ban after picking up two yellow cards in the win over Uruguay, sealed by late goals from Rafa Márquez and Héctor Herrera after both sides had been reduced to 10 men. Osorio has revealed that he has been assessing numerous options to fill the void left by the PSV Eindhoven man.
“With Andrés, there are several possibilities; yesterday we observe three. Today, we will see another two,” Osorio said Wednesday. “We try to find the best way to collectively counter his absence. What worries us most is the relationship that exists between the player in this position, who will ideally be left-footed.”
Osorio hinted that there could be other changes to the side, noting Jamaica’s strength in the air in comparison to Uruguay’s speed and athleticism. Jamaica caused teams plenty of problems in last year’s Gold Cup, beating the U.S. in the semifinals. But they have been less successful since, with a poor start to World Cup qualifying and a 1-0 defeat to Venezuela to begin the Copa America.
Including its invite to last year’s competition, Jamaica has now lost all four of its Copa America matches and has yet to score a goal. Yet goalkeeper Andre Blake believes his side can rise to the challenge against Mexico Thursday.
“I think we play better when we play against bigger opponents, and I think all the guys are going to be ready. And in games like these, you don’t have to motivate the guys; and once we stick to our game plan and play together, I think we should be able to have a good game,” he said, the Jamaica Observer reported.
Kickoff Time: 10 p.m. EDT
TV Channel: Fox Sports 1, Univision, Univision Deportes