CONCACAF Gold Cup favourites Mexico make their tournament bow in the early hours of Friday. Mark O’Haire (@MarkOHaires) assesses the best bets on offer for their showdown with unknown quantity Cuba.
Mexico v Cuba | Friday 02.30 | BT Sport 2
It’s David vs Goliath at the Gold Cup on Friday morning although David’s going into the battle with his arms tied behind his back and a blindfold on. Whilst Mexico are reeling from the loss of their two best players, the continental powerhouses struggles are nothing compared to that of rank outsiders Cuba coming into the competition.
Because of the political situation back home, whenever the Lions of the Caribbean play away, there’s always a tale or two. Already forward Keilen Garcia appears to have defected after not showing up for a team breakfast on Wednesday. Additionally, six more Cuban players and head coach Raul Gonzalez will not arrive in Chicago until the day of the game due to visa issues back home. How’s that for preparation?
Luckily for Cuba, zilch is expected of them against Mexico. Their most important fixtures come later in the tournament against Guatemala and Trinidad and they’ll hope to have boss Raul Gonzalez back along with a full compliment of players for those showdowns. It just means they may have to face the might of El Tri with a 16-man squad and no head coach.
Cuba are ranked 84 places below Mexico and head into the tournament on the back of a run of one win in seven matches. They have not tasted victory since they defeated Dominican Republic 3-0 in a friendly in March and have never progressed further than the Gold Cup quarter-finals. Their aggregate score in four previous clashes with Mexico is 1-15 including a 0-5 at the same stage of the 2011 Gold Cup.
If you fancy the unthinkable, Cuba are 50/1 (Betfair) to open their campaign with three points but they’ve already been dumped out of 2018 World Cup qualification and lost a recent friendly to New York Cosmos too. It ain’t gonna happen.
Saying that, tournament favourites Mexico do arrive in a bit of strife. The injuries to Javier Hernandez and Hector Moreno have caused a degree of consternation and even resulted in head coach Miguel Herrera overhauling his team’s tactics and formation. Instead of El Tri’s usual 5-3-2 system, the six-times Gold Cup champions will opt for a 4-4-2.
Herrera himself has been fielding plenty of criticism for a seven-match winless streak and there’s a suggestion that his job could be in jeopardy. He’s piled the pressure on too, claiming failure to lift the continental trophy must be seen as a failure. For a nation that’s struggled with expectation levels in recent years, that might not be the wisest avenue. But as I say, if Mexico don’t reward 1/12 (Paddy Power) backers, then something seriously has gone wrong.
Giovani dos Santos has been axed for his brother Jonathan in midfield but Andres Guardado is the only El Tri midfielder with more than one international goal. Oribe Peralta and Carlos Vela partner in attack to shoulder the goal-getting responsibilities and despite the rumblings of discontent surrounding El Tri, anything but a comfortable three points would be a shock.
Finding a decent value bet in this sort of environment is always tricky so I’m going to have a small dabble on two correct scores. We can have 5/1 on Mexico winning 3-0 and 13/2 on Mexico winning 4-0. There’s no major stats behind these selections but hopefully the science above is enough proof for the punting pudding.
Mexico v Cuba – Mexico to win 3-0 (5/1 Paddy Power)
Mexico v Cuba – Mexico to win 4-0 (13/2 Paddy Power)
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