Mexico set to begin Olympic qualifying run as Group B kicks off

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Photo by ISIPhotos.com

BY ADAM SERRANO

CONCACAF Olympic qualifying continues on Friday evening as Group B kicks off at the Home Depot Center.  The action begins this evening at the Home Depot Center when Honduras faces Panama (9pm EDT/CONCACAF.com) and ends when Mexico takes on Trinidad and Tobago (11:30pm EDT).

Leading the group is a high-flying Mexico side that is eager to put last month's 2-0 defeat at the hands of the US behind them, while El Tri's biggest competitors for group supremacy will be Andy Najar's Honduras and an experienced Panama side that boasts several members of the Central American nation's senior team. Meanwhile, Trinidad and Tobago, the Caribbean's top side full out the group. 

A potential date with the United States at LIVESTRONG Park in semifinal round looms for whomever advances from the group. 

A closer look at Group B after the jump:

MEXICO

After failing to qualify for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, Mexico look to ensure their ticket to the London games by bring a stacked squad to the HDC including 14 players, who are regular starters in the Mexican First Division. Head Coach Luis Fernando Tena's side also brings considerable international experience as a number of the players appeared in the 2011 Pan-American games as well as the 2011 U-20 World Cup.

Tena's selection will be led up front by Chivas de Guadalajara star Marco Fabian, who has quickly blossomed into one of Mexico's finest attacking options. Tena's group also includes California-born Miguel Angel Ponce, who has transitioned from left back to left wing with the Olympic squad. 

But on a team full of stars, the most intriguing is Erick "El Cubo" Torres, who helped Mexico's U-20s earn a third place finish in last summer's U-20 World Cup in Colombia. Expected to begin the tournament on the bench, the 19-year-old Torres is considered one of Guadalajara's rising stars and with his speed and presence in the are has already drawn comparisons to Manchester United's Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez. 

HONDURAS

DC United midfielder Andy Najar leads the charge for a Honduran U-23 group that is hoping to qualify for their second consecutive Olympics. Aside from Najar, the Honduran side is composed almost entirely of domestic based players.

The 19-year-old Najar is expected to lead an offense that includes European-based forwards Anthony Lozano, who is currently with Spanish side Alcoyano and Eddie Hernandez of Sweden's Hacken. Aside from their foreign-based attacking trio, Los Catrachos are a hard-working side that is without any real star power. 

If Los Catrachos hope to advance to their second straight Olympics, a victory over Panama in the group opener is vital. 

PANAMA

Considered the dark horse of the group, Panama bring an experienced group to the Olympic Qualifying tournament. Panama boast four players from last summer's Gold Cup semifinalists and seven from the side that fell to the US 1-0 in January in Panama City. Not only is head coach Julio Dely Valdes' side experienced internationally, but eight players play outside of their native country in leagues throughout the Americas. 

Panama's lone MLS connection will be FC Dallas acquisition Carlos Rodriguez, who can play at either point along the left side. Acquired from Panamanian side Tauro, Rodriguez has already tallied one assist in his first appearance for FCD in their 2-1 victory over the New York Red Bulls two weeks ago.  

While Rodriguez is a known quanity, Los Canaleros most intriuging player is Tigres UNAL U-20 midfielder Manuel Asprilla, a dynamic attacker, who has drawn comparisons to Tigres first teamer and Mexico's own Alan Pulido. 

TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO

The minnow of the group, the odds are stacked against head coach Angus Eve's young Trinidad and Tobago side, who must tame a rio of powers in order to reach the semi-finals.

T&T boasts a pair of players in MLS in defender Kevan George(Columbus Crew) and Cornell Cato (Seattle Sounders), but the key man for the young Soca Warriors is Orlando City SC midfielder Kevin Molino. Already an esablish member of the senior national team, the playmaker tallied a pair of goals as he helped lead the Lions to the USL Pro title last season. 

Supporting Molino will be in-form striker Jamal Gay, who helped the Soca Warriors earn a 1-1 draw against mighty Mexico last October. For the Caribbean side to have hope of advancing out of Group B, they must find a way of duplicating their heroics from last fall and earn a result against Mexico in the opener. 

Who will break out of Group B? Will Mexico roll to the top spot or can Honduras or Panama challenge them? Will the Soca Warriors shock all three?

Share your thoughts below.

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30 Responses to Mexico set to begin Olympic qualifying run as Group B kicks off

  1. Dimidri says:

    Any idea on what sort of coefficient FIFA/the IOC use to determine confederation allotments for the Olympics? It’s different than the order used for the World Cup, not counting hosts towards their confederation’s total(which you don’t do for the WC, you decide what each confederation deserves not taking into account the host and then add them in), it looks like this-
    1. Africa-3.5
    Asia-3.5
    3. Europe-3
    4. North America-2
    South America-2
    6. Oceania-1

    Even if you go by past Olympic performances, South America should be much higher, with Argentina/Brazil’s recent success. Any Idea?

  2. The Tran says:

    Very balanced group.

    Interesting that Mexico appears to be the only team not to call in foreign based players.

  3. Chuck says:

    It loos as based somewhat in balance between continents, not performance (or any other FIFA-related criteria) The IOC allocates 4 places to The Americas. Europe has 4 spots because the host counts as one.

  4. Chuck says:

    They apparently suck at doing PR with the clubs, caused they could have easily negotiated to have Giovani since he doesn’t exist for Spurs. Same with their other youth-team players in Europe, thiy aren’t part of the main squad in most cases.

  5. elmo says:

    If Miguel Ponce was smart and wanted a better international career, he should switch club teams so he can play for the US.

    (he is not cap-tied to mexico yet)

    I guarantee he would be a starter at LB for the USMNT. Otherwise he’s gonna waste away in depth behind the same style players for mexico

    Follow your amigo Joe Corona.

  6. Metta World Peace says:

    Nice picture of miguel ponce running off the field in that last friendly. Too bad both his goals were scored on penalty kicks. Mexico wont even make it to London.

  7. chris says:

    Hes not good enough

  8. KillerInstinct says:

    That’s because they have non worth notingand the ones that are, are not even getting playing time…sorry Mexico doesnt have military bases set up in different parts of Europe…lol…but in all seriouness you’d be surprise how many yong payers skipped the MLS and went directly to Europe and are starting to play with the first team.

  9. Mike says:

    I’m actually pretty sure he’s cap-tied, seeing as he played in the Copa America.

  10. jake says:

    Good question. I’d drop Africa by 1 and Asia and Oceania by .5 each now that Australia is part of Asia and I’d increase South America and Europe 1 each.

  11. CplDaniel says:

    Gio made the field for spurs this week.

  12. louis z says:

    that was an invite. he is not cap-tied.

  13. Mike says:

    No, he entered the game against Peru as a sub in the 73rd minute and then played against Uruguay. He is now not eligible for the US ever, because the Copa America is an officially recognized FIFA tournament.

  14. Roberto says:

    Official tournament, yes. However since Mexico was a guest it is not official. Either way, it’s a mute point…. I don’t think he’ll ever suit up for the US anyway.

  15. dan says:

    why the hate?

  16. marco says:

    Mexico looks very good against T&T. They should win their group. Mexico and USA in Olympics would be good for region. They could do some major damage.

  17. marco says:

    They seem much more hungry than USA. At 5-0 in 78th minute Mexico attacker puts a high boot into T&T goalies head.

  18. b says:

    Mexico wins 7-1, 35 shots on goal.

  19. b says:

    Sorry that’s shots

  20. john says:

    I wasn’t aware PKs counted less.

  21. Brett says:

    Total number of independent nations with football federations per continent/region, most likely.

  22. Brett says:

    When salivating over a player, they do.

  23. 2tone says:

    I wouldn’t say hungry. I think they were trying there hardest to run up the score versus how the USA did not want to run up the score. If the U.S. had put into high gear in the second half I gaurantee you they would have won 10 or 11 to nil. But the U.S. held back out of respect, and the Mexicans didn’t. Mexico’s motivation was quite clearly displayed. They wanted to one up the USA. But the U.S. kept a clean sheet where as Mexico didn’t, and really T&T hit Mexico on the counter attack multiple times because Mexico was to much into attack mode. A more poised T&T and they would have scored more goals against Mexico.

  24. fischy says:

    Technically, it would be a moot point, unless you mean it’s a point being made by someone who cannot speak.

  25. john says:

    cool story bro

  26. 2tone says:

    U mad or something dude.

  27. wilyboy says:

    It’s a fact. The US took their foot off the gas at 5-0, we were really just passing the game to death, the only one eager to get forward was the sub, Gyau. However, that passing eventually led to a final chance, and Corona got his hattrick.

    Mexico is a loaded side, but you can’t tell me they don’t have a chip on their shoulder after losing 2-0 earlier.

  28. Stoop says:

    Mexico looked very, very good.

  29. francois says:

    Doesn’t matter, 2-0 less than a month ago. I’m not concerned with Mexico, i’m concerned with us handling our business and qualifying.

  30. Red White & Blue Porker says:

    The same could be said about Cuba. A 11 man cuba would have cause the US back line some problems or as you said a more “poised” Cuba would have scored some goals against the US.