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Monday, May 23, 2022

USA, Mexico and Costa Rica meet in ‘Group of Death’ of Concacaf Olympic qualifier

Drawn into the same group, the United States, Mexico and Costa Rica are set to begin the battle for the two spots in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games that are allotted to CONCACAF.

The tournament will be played between March 18-30 by eight teams in two groups. The top two of each group will advance to the semifinals, and the two winners of these, in addition to going to the final, will be awarded a spot in Tokyo-2020.

Group A comprises the United States, Mexico, the Dominican Republic and Costa Rica.

Group B comprises Honduras, Haiti, Canada and El Salvador.

A group of death

The US team is presented with a roster in which the presence of players of Mexican origin such as Julián Araujo, Ulysses Llanez, Sebastián Soto, and Sebastián Saucedo.

“Qualifying is a challenge we are prepared for,” said Jason Kreys, the United States Under-23 coach since 2019. “This group is capable of qualifying for the Olympics.”

For Kreis and his team, this Pre-Olympic is special because the United States hasn’t won it since 1992. In fact, the U.S. didn’t qualify for London-2012 and Rio de Janeiro-2016.

The pre-Olympic tournaments bring back bad memories for Mexico, especially due to the painful eliminations it suffered before Sydney-2000 and Beijing-2008, but for this edition, coach Jaime Lozano hopes to take advantage of a good generation of footballers and playing at home.

“We will do everything in our power to put the name of Mexico very high,” said Lozano.

The Costa Rican team will try to return to the Olympic tournament, something they already experienced in Athens-2004. In the current team, midfielders Randall Leal and Luis Díaz, players in the MLS, stand out.

The Tico team has a promising generation of young footballers led by Douglas Sequeira who pointed out that “making the list was not easy; with them we are going to face a short and intense tournament with a dream that no one is going to take away from us.”

The Dominican Republic, the team that completes Group A, is led by Jacques Passy; his management began as head of the senior team, but later he was also assigned the U-23.

Passy aspires to debut against Mexico and achieve at least a tie.

“Costa Rica, the United States and Mexico think more about the confrontations between them and little about us, but by winning a point in the first game we turn everything upside down,” he said.

Honduras hopes to continue streak

Since it debuted in the Olympic tournament at Sydney-2000, the Honduran team was only absent in Athens-2004. In this Pre-Olympic, the catrachos are going for their fourth consecutive classification, and they will look for it under the Uruguayan Fabián Coito, who led them to win the silver medal of the Pan American Games in Lima-2019.

In Coito’s squad, Douglas Martínez, forward for Real Salt Lake in the MLS, may be of vital importance.

In contrast, Haiti has never qualified for the Olympic soccer tournament, while El Salvador has only arrived once — Mexico City in 1968.

Canada has qualified for two Olympic tournaments, in Montreal-1976 and Los Angeles-1984, but in this qualifier they will not be able to count on their great figure, Alphonso Davies. In the absence of Bayern Munich’s left-back, the North American team will have the leadership of central defender Derek Cornelius, of the Vancouver Whitecaps.

The 15 games of this Pre-Olympic will be played in two venues in the city of Guadalajara, Jalisco (west of Mexico): 10 at the Jalisco World Cup Stadium twice and five in the modern Akron Stadium.

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