The CONCACAF Gold Cup gets underway this weekend as North and Central American sides play their biannual competition to determine the continental champions. It may not have the prestige of the Copa America or European Championships, but it is still very much an important competition for teams in that part of the world.
The United States and Mexico, far and away the two best sides in the confederation, have won each of the previous 13 editions of the tournament except for one since its inception in 1991. Canada upset the apple cart by lifting the trophy in 2000, but the USA have won five and Mexico eight titles. It was the Mexicans who emerged victorious in 2015 beating surprise finalists Jamaica 3-1, while USA lost out on a penalty shootout to Panama in the third place play off.
That result helped Mexico qualify for this year’s Confederations Cup in Russia, a competition which has only just finished. Mexico reached the semi finals of that tournament, but were dumped out 4-1 by eventual winners Germany. It will be a very different squad that lines up at the Gold Cup due to that commitment.
A similar case, under different circumstances, applies to the USA. manager Bruce Arena has elected to rest several first team players who were involved in the June World Cup qualifiers, and has taken the opportunity to give a variety of younger and up-and-coming players their chance to shine at this tournament. The US are +175 with Bet365 and Betway to claim the trophy, and that’s a bet worth taking.
The competition is split into three groups of four, with the winners, runners-up and two best third placed sides progressing to the quarter finals.
Group A features the following teams:
Group B includes:
While Group C features:
Mexico are -108 with 188Bet to cover a -1.5 Asian handicap in their opener against El Salvador. and that’s our first recommended bet of the weekend matches.
While the ‘senior’ Mexican squad were losing 2-1 after extra time to Portugal in the Confederations Cup third place play off, this Gold Cup squad defeated Paraguay 2-1 in an international friendly as part of their build up to the tournament. It’s difficult to gauge the quality and form of the Mexican side as they are without a variety of first team players who might otherwise have been present, but it can’t be denied that the nation has beaten El Salvador in each of the last six meetings. Five of those have seen the Mexicans cover this handicap, and it would be no great surprise to see them rattle in two or three goals as they attempt to get off to the perfect start.
El Salvador have reached the quarter final stage of the Gold Cup four times since 1991, but have never progressed beyond that stage, and were knocked out at the group stage in the most recent tournament in 2015. They managed draws with Canada and Costa Rica, but lost to group winners Jamaica – going out with two points and no victory to their name. With Curacao and Jamaica in the group this time around they may fancy their chances of reaching the quarter finals once more, but are unlikely to get much from this opening game.
In revenge of that semi final defeat two years ago, USA can be backed at -125 with Betway to beat Panama.
Among the untested players in the USA squad at this competition is Dom Dwyer, the English-born player who scored on his recent debut against Ghana. He will be keen to push his case for a place in the full USA squad for next year’s World Cup in Russia, a competition which the US are well on course to qualify for.
It’s eight without defeat for the USA (four wins and four draws), and although the last three meetings with Panama have ended all square, home advantage could play a part as they look to get off on the right footing. Panama have proved hard to beat over the last ten games, drawing five, winning three and losing just twice, but they’ve only beaten USA once over 90 minutes in the last 18 meetings. That was a 2-1 Gold Cup victory back in 2011, but there is no doubt the US have had the upper hand over the years.
Both sides will expect to beat Martinique and Nicaragua, so this game could go a long way to deciding the group winners, and Bruce Arena will demand nothing less than victory from his young stars.
USA to win the Gold Cup
7th – 26th July 2017
USA to beat Panama
Saturday 8th July, 21:30 GMT
Mexico -1.5 to beat El Salvador
Monday 10th July, 02:00 GMT