With the winners of each group earning automatic qualification to the FIFA World Cup later this year in New Zealand and both teams so far looking the cream of the crop of the group, today’s game will take on the feel of a must-win encounter.
The runners-up in each group will be reseeded after the first round and will play off for the other two spots from CONCACAF so there will be a lot still to play for.
Mexico hammered hapless Cuba 9-1 in the opening game on Saturday, while Canada eased their way to a 3-1 win over Haiti. In the other game, El Salvador scored twice in the final eight minutes of regulation to earn a 2-2 draw against Honduras in a Central America derby as 18 goals were scored on the afternoon.
Also, today Cuba will hope to atone against Honduras in the 5:30 pm game, while El Salvador and Haiti will meet in what should be an entertaining game starting at 8:00 pm.
Despite their win, Canada missed several wide-open scoring chances with Michael Petrascco being the main culprit and coach Rob Gale knows they can’t afford to do that against Mexico.
In his post-game press conference, Gale said: “We got complacent after getting the early lead and we need to be more clinical against Mexico.”
The short rest, one day, between games could also be a factor, Gale observed, pointing out that Mexico had a few more hours rest as their game started five hours earlier.
A number of the Canadians have played in these conditions before as they were part of the Under-17 team that played here in 2012, including talisman Jordan Hamilton, who scored twice on Saturday. Gale thinks this could play in their advantage.
The Mexican juggernaut is expected to roll on, however, with their powerful line-up led by winger Hirving Lozano, who scored twice and set up another three goals against Cuba on Saturday.
At the other end, however, the Mexican defence and goalkeeper were rarely tested, but should get more work this afternoon.
Hamilton, who plays with MLS outfit Toronto FC, the speedy Petrascco and Chris Nanco are the players likely to give Mexico some trouble.
El Salvador waited late on Saturday, but the match-up against a hard-running Haitian team could make for lots of goals and entertainment.
Haiti are dark horses to advance to the play-offs, and after coming close on several occasions against Canada on Saturday, will fancy their chances against El Salvador.
Neither defences inspired any confidence on Saturday, however, and this could swell the aggregate goals today.
Cuba will have to forget Saturday’s nightmarish start and hope to salvage what’s left of the tournament with four games to go and starting against Honduras today must hope to improve if they are to make a run for a play-off spot.