Haiti v Mexico: Underdogs to meet their match in Gold Cup semi-final

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THE CONCACAF Gold Cup has reached the semi-finals stage and James O'Rourke (@JamesOR1) shares his thoughts as tournament favourites Mexico meet surprise package Haiti in Tuesday night's tie.

Haiti v Mexico | Wednesday 3rd July 2019, 03:00 | FreeSports

We’re very much at the business end of the CONCACAF Gold Cup and it is surprise package Haiti who take on pre-tournament favourites Mexico in the first semi-final at State Farm Stadium, the home of NFL outfit Arizona Cardinals. On paper, this should be an absolute romp for Mexico, but one thing they most certainly cannot afford to do is take Haiti lightly, something Canada were possibly guilty of doing in the quarter finals.

Haiti are very much the story of this Gold Cup. They entered this competition with a FIFA Ranking of 101, worsened by only four others teams taking part, whilst Martinique don’t even have a ranking due to not being an official FIFA member. That fact alone suggested that hopes from the outside wouldn’t have been high for them to cause a shock or two.

Haiti upsetting the odds

How wrong they were. Under the management of French coach Marc Collat, Les Grenadiers are one of only two teams to have a 100% record, the other being USA, and they’re the second-highest ranked nation here this summer.

Wins over Bermuda and Nicaragua were perhaps nothing to shout home about in their opening two group clashes as they were entitled to defeat them. However, the win over Costa Rica, a country that has qualified for four of the last five World Cup Finals really made everyone stand up and take notice.

There was something riding on that game too as it was a decider for Group B, and this lost proved costly as it meant Costa Rica then faced Mexico in the next stage, and they were knocked out on penalties.

Haiti looked as if they would be following Costa Rica home when 2-0 down to Canada only a few days ago, but a remarkable second half turnaround claimed a memorable 3-2 win for the darlings of this Gold Cup. There was no fluke about it either. They had hit the post and forced a big save in that opening 45, before a more clinical display after the restart set up this encounter with the Mexicans.

What we should perhaps clarify is that whilst Haiti certainly aren’t among the stronger footballing nations across the planet, this is no bunch of no-hopers. We have players from the top-flights in Belgium and Portugal, plus from the second tier in France, as well as the MLS. They knocked out a Canada side with two players starting regularly in the Premier League last year, as well as players from Bayern Munich, Besiktas, Rangers and Red Star Belgrade. On paper, Canada should have won, but this Haiti outfit are on a real crest of a wave right now and simply cannot be ignored.

A minor miracle required against Mexico

Having said that, Haiti are going to need to produce the performance of their lives to get anything out of Mexico in Glendale. They’re the seven-time winners of this Gold Cup, making them the most successful nation in the history of this tournament. They’re ranked inside the FIFA top 20, either side of Sweden and Poland. When we consider Haiti are in level 101st place alongside India, it reflects what should be the difference in quality.

Mexico won all three of their group games, and whilst a 7-0 win over Cuba was an obvious high point, they were severely tested by a Martinique with 16 members of its squad playing in a domestic league.

Mexico needed penalties to progress to this semi-final stage versus Costa Rica, with stalwart Guillermo Ochoa proving the hero when denying Keysher Fuller from 12-yards. They were the better side over the 120 minutes, but they’ll need to quickly recover as this Haiti team won’t lack for energy and heart.

Mexico however do have the luxury to potential rotate and not necessarily reduce quality in their starting eleven, should Tata Martino deem appropriate to do so.

Whilst this is a semi-final, every game at this tournament has been a final for Haiti. They will depart the tournament as winners no matter what. They’ve made giant strides since day one and this summer has very much been a success for them. They’re proven quite hard to beat for a while now, losing only three times in 2018 and 2019 combined so far, and two of those teams to do so were Argentina (4-0) and Chile (2-1), both of whom are in the semis of the Copa America.

Haiti has everything to gain here, whilst all the pressure is on Mexico. They’re used to this stage of the competition however and it would be a big shock if they failed to progress and meet either USA or Jamaica in this weekend’s final.

The betting angles

Quotes of 1/4 on Mexico winning this inside 90-minutes is a reflection of the task in hand for Haiti, who are priced at 18/1 with a few bookmakers. For all that Haiti have done incredibly well, they’re not so strong defensively, having kept only a clean sheet versus Nicaragua, meaning it is just two clean sheets in their last 11 overall (the other also coming against Nicaragua in November 2018).

Mexico also only have one clean sheet to their name, but they’ve faced stronger opposition all-round with the likes of Costa Rica and Canada, but they can be frustrated.

We’ll have two plays on this game. The first of which is Mexico to score Over 2.5 Goals at 131/100 with Marathon. The fear is that this will be a step too far for Haiti, and whilst they’ve been a threat going forward, I do fear for them defensively. Canada carved them open quite easily in the quarter finals and Mexico are way ahead of them. Mexico should have too much in that regard.

The second play is for Uriel Antuna to be an Anytime Goalscorer, which I felt was worthy of a play at 11/4 with Betfair. He has been one of the standout players at this tournament and already have four goals to his name, with is the same as Wolves forward Raul Jimenez.

The LA Galaxy winger already has a hat-trick to his name at this Gold Cup, and is very much in contention to win both the Golden Ball and Golden Boot, as well as possibly the Young Player Award.

Best Bets

Haiti v Mexico – Mexico to score Over 2.5 Goals (131/100 Marathon)

Haiti v Mexico – Uriel Antuna Anytime Goalscorer (11/4 Betfair)

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