PASADENA - Saturday's
CONCACAF Gold Cup final is exactly the
showdown the tournament's troubled organisers desperately wanted:
Mexico, the best supported football team in the region, against the
host-nation, the United States.
Around 90,000 fans, mostly in Mexico's green shirts, will pack into the Rose Bowl to watch
events unfold while the match will almost certainly draw a tournament record television
audience, thanks largely to Spanish language coverage in North America.
On the field, the third consecutive Gold Cup final between the two regional powerhouses,
has an extra edge with the United States looking to equal Mexico's record of five
Bob Bradley's team also want to avenge their loss in the final two years ago when a
weakened U.S. side was humiliated 5-0 at the old Giants Stadium in New Jersey.
But the Americans will have to be at the peak of their form to upset Mexico, who head into
the game as clear favourites, despite their troubled start to the tournament.
Five of their players were suspended for failing doping tests, which they have disputed,
but the team has managed to overcome the distractions and produce some flowing, attacking
football in which they have banged in 18 goals in five games, seven from Manchester United
striker Javier Hernandez.
CONCACAF will just be relieved, that after weeks of internal wrangling and public disputes
following the corruption allegations against their former president Jack Warner, they have been
able to put on a tournament which has captured the imagination of the sporting public.
Warner, in charge of the organization for almost 30 years, quit last week but the
investigations into bribery charges involving some of CONCACAF's Caribbean member associations
has continued while the organization has been running a 12-team tournament and 13 venues across
"This tournament will set attendance records and my guess is there will also be television
records, the event has been a huge success," Sunil Gulati, U.S. Soccer president and CONCACAF
executive committee member, told Reuters.
"All of the other things that have happened in the political world or the administrative
board-rooms, we have got to get straightened out and I think we will over time. It has been a
crazy few weeks but in the end this is what it is all about, a full stadium, two good teams and
The Gold Cup is formally known as the continental championship for North and Central
America and the Caribbean but for the thousands of Hispanic fans who have filled up NFL
stadiums in venues in Dallas, Houston and New Jersey, it is a bi-annual festival of Latin
A sixth Mexican Gold Cup title would be celebrated long into the night in the bars across
the both borders where fans of 'El Tri' gather to watch their team, but the team in red, white
and blue are aiming to be party poopers.
While the contest between the two teams has grown in intensity on the field, in the stands
the complexities of identity in modern America ensure that the rivalry remains one that is
moderated by respect.
After the U.S. beat Panama on Wednesday in Houston, they were applauded off the field by a
mostly Mexican crowd waiting to watch their team in the second semi-final of the
For U.S. striker Clint Dempsey, who grew up playing with mainly Mexican players in Texan
youth soccer, the applause contained several meanings.
"I like to think it is two things, a sign of respect that the game is developing more and
more in the States, and we are playing a better style of football," he told reporters.
"And two, I'd like to think that a lot of people that were in the stands that were wearing
green jerseys are making their living here and [are] being able to have an appreciation, a
little bit more, for this country."
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