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The odds for Mexico vs Honduras have been supplied to us by the DraftKings Sportsbook, which is running a ‘bet $5, get $200 instantly’ offer right now.
This could be a tight game between the two favorites to advance from Group B.
In recent decades Mexico have grown accustomed to reaching the round of 16 at World Cups. They struggled to get beyond that stage of the tournament, giving rise to the nationwide hunt for a quinto partido (‘fifth game’).
After suffering elimination in the last 16 in seven successive tournaments, Mexico finally ended that run in 2022. The problem was, they did not even make it that far. A group stage exit was a disappointment, not least because they were beaten to second place by a poor Poland side.
It was no surprise to see Tata Martino relieved of his duties after the competition. The former Barcelona head coach was unpopular heading into Qatar and his team’s performances only weakened his position.
El Tri turned to Diego Cocca as his replacement. Another Argentine, Cocca had vast experience of the Mexican game due to spells in charge of Tijuana, Atlas and Tigres. His remit was to freshen up the squad and get the side winning again.
Yet just five months on from his appointment, Cocca finds himself out of a job. Mexico fired the 51-year-old earlier this month after the national team were comfortably beaten by the USMNT in the semi-finals of the CONCACAF Nations League.
Jaime Lozano has been handed the reins for the Gold Cup on an interim basis. Formerly the manager of the country’s Under-23s side, Lozano has the chance to state his credentials for the job on a full-time basis in the coming weeks.
The squad at his disposal is not the strongest Mexico could have named, with the likes of Hector Herrera, Erick Gutierrez, Hirving Lozano and Jesus Corona left out.
There is plenty of talent within the ranks, though: Edson Alvarez, Jesus Gallardo, Santiago Gimenez and the 37-year-old goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa have all been included.
The World Cup will expand from 32 to 48 teams for the 2026 edition, which will be co-hosted by the USA, Canada and Mexico. That is a boost to many CONCACAF nations, with more qualification places up for grabs for countries in the region. Some might be eyeing a World Cup debut.
Honduras are not among them, since they have already participated in three World Cups: 1982, 2010 and 2014. Their so-called golden generation qualified for back-to-back editions in South Africa and Brazil - no mean feat for a country of 10 million people.
How Honduras supporters must pine for a return to those days. They have had little to cheer about in recent years. The team crashed out in the group stage of the 2019 Gold Cup, before a quarter-final exit two years later.
Meanwhile in qualification for World Cup 2022, Honduras performed miserably. They finished bottom of the eight-team final stage after collecting just four points from a possible 56. As such, Honduras are not among the favorites to win the Gold Cup this time around.
Indeed, the first objective should be to get out of the group. Haiti have been getting some good results of late, while Qatar are Asian champions and Mexico are a CONCACAF heavyweight. A top-two finish in Group B is far from guaranteed.
Diego Vasquez will need this new generation of players to step up. The vast majority of their squad members ply their trade at home, but Brest forward Alberth Elis is one to keep an eye on. The absence of Andy Najar and Anthony Lozano is a blow, though.
Cocca was fired as Mexico boss after his team’s 1-0 victory over Panama in the Nations League third-place play-off. Lozano has therefore had very little time to work with the squad ahead of their Gold Cup opener this weekend.
As a result, we should not expect intricate patterns of play or a cohesive on-field identity from El Tri. They have more than enough quality at their disposal to win this match regardless, but their preparation has been less than ideal.
Honduras have struggled to score goals in their recent encounters. They went down 1-0 to Venezuela in a friendly last week and have now failed to score in four of their last seven matches. In the last 12 months they have notched two goals in a game on just one occasion.
Vasquez will know that his team’s best chance of a surprise win this weekend is to keep things tight at the back and then nick a goal from a set-piece or on the counter-attack. Honduras will try to disrupt Mexico’s rhythm from the get-go, so we could be in store for a stop-start affair.
Neutrals should not expect 90 minutes of free-flowing, end-to-end soccer in this one. We anticipate a tight, low-scoring match in which one goal might be enough to collect all three points. Back under 2.5 goals in total.
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Greg Lea is a freelance soccer journalist from London. He is the former editor of The Set Pieces, and has contributed to the Guardian, FourFourTwo, and ESPN. A Crystal Palace fan, he is a long-time subscriber to the belief that it's the taking part that counts. Email: [email protected]More info on Greg Lea
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