Los Angeles (AFP) – Defending champion Mexico and host United States will attempt to advance to the Gold Cup football finals with triumphs in Texas on Thursday.
The Mexicans will face Canada at Houston in one semi-final match of the biennial North American showdown, while the Americans host guest invitee Qatar at Austin in the other.
Winners will meet on Sunday at Las Vegas in the championship match of the 16th CONCACAF regional tournament.
Eight-time champion Mexico defeated the US squad 1-0 in the 2019 final. The teams have met in six Gold Cup finals, with the Mexicans winning all but the 2007 matchup, when the six-time trophy-holder American side took a 2-1 victory.
Asian Cup champion Qatar’s Almoez Ali has a tournament-high four goals, while the US club is led by two goals from Orlando City striker Daryl Dike.
“Without a doubt it’ll be difficult,” US coach Gregg Berhalter said. “Qatar has looked great in this tournament. They are already in the semi-finals. That gives you a warning.”
US midfielder Cristian Roldan, who plays for Major League Soccer’s Seattle Sounders, knows Qatar will be tough to crack but intends to live up to high expectations from within.
“We have high aspirations as a team,” Roldan said. “Qatar is going to be really difficult. They play in a 5-3-2, they’re really difficult to break down and they’re a transition team, so we have to be smart.”
While Qatar, the 2022 World Cup host, tries to make a major statement ahead of next year’s global spectacle, Canada, which took the 2000 Gold Cup, will try to make its second final.
The Canadians, who were edged 1-0 by the United States in the group stage, will try to become the first nation to score against El Tricolor.
Canada beat Mexico 2-1 in the 2000 quarter-finals in their only prior meeting in a knockout round matchup.
Cyle Larin and Stephen Eustaquio each have three goals to lead the Canadians into their first semi-final since 2007, while Rogelio Funes Mori has three goals to pace Mexico.
“We just have to play our game and focus on ourselves, put in a good performance and try to set up in the best possible way to win the game,” Canada winger Tajon Buchanan said.
“To be here now and in the semi-final against a top side like Mexico, it’s a lot to take in. Everybody is ready for it, and we’re all ready to get on the field, put in the performance and hopefully go to the final.”