If Jamaica thought taking on the United States in the semifinals of the 2015 Gold Cup was a David vs. Goliath battle, they have an ant vs elephant matchup in taking on Mexico in the finals from Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday at 7:30 p.m.
The Jamaicans weathered an attacking storm against the United States, but they’ll have to take on the villified Mexican squad that will have massive home-field advantage and have been the recipients of a number of generous refereeing decisions.
The winner gets the opportunity for a shot at the 2017 Confederations Cup in a playoff against the U.S. in October. Conspiracy theorists will have a ball as CONCACAF would surely prefer a Mexico vs United States playoff, but that won’t stop the defensively sound Reggae Boyz.
Head coach Winfried Schäfer has revolutionized this team into an organized, compact unit that rarely leaks at the back. After an impressive Copa America appearance where they frustrated Argentina and Uruguay, the United States pummeled their back line and still came up nearly empty. Wes Morgan was phenomenal in the air, and Mexico will be ill-advised to attempt the same cross-heavy attacking game-plan that failed their neighbors to the north in Atlanta.
However, for all their defensive abilities, Jamaica must still find a way forward. They weathered a U.S. attack that couldn’t finish, but it’s unlikely they would survive a repeat of that match. Set-pieces are their strength, and it will likely come down to those again. In addition, goalkeeper Andre Blake must be better, having made nine saves against the U.S. but nearly all of those he spilled before collecting.
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Jamaica has plenty to go up against, but Mexico has some adversity as well. They’ve played the entire tournament without Javier Hernandez – and it’s showed – but now they’ll miss Carlos Vela due to yellow card accumulation, serving to sap it’s already thin attack even further.
There are two likely results on Sunday: either Mexico’s luck runs out and, like the United States, their poor performances catch up to them against Jamaica’s brick wall; or El Tri turns things around and Jamaica is helpless to stop a rejuvenated squad galvanized by its villainous casting it didn’t ask for but now must embrace. Things are sure to be feisty either way.