Thursday, June 23, 2011

Five Things We Learned From This Round Of Gold Cup Action

1. De Nigris is a "super sub"- I mentioned in my piece detailing the activities of some of Europe's up and coming talents, the importance of a "super sub," a player capable of coming off the bench and changing a game. In Aldo De Nigris, Mexico have found their man; twice in a row now he has saved Mexico with hugely important goals. Last week, with El Tri 1-0 down to Guatemala, De Nigris swept home from close range to tie the match up, and this time around it was his head, which propelled the ball into the back of the net shortly after the start of extra time. Certainly, Mexico will hope that against the US on Saturday, they never find themselves in such a dire situation, but if they do, fans should feel confident in the ability of Aldo De Nigris.

2. Freddy Adu is back- After years of wandering in the footballing wilderness, Freddy Adu looks to have finally returned to the international stage. Long after expectations of heroic acts for the US national team had died down, the now low profile Adu received a call up to the National Team for the 2011 Gold Cup. For the first three games, Adu wasn't even part of the matchday squad, and when even with the US cruising against Jamaica he still couldn't get on the pitch, it looked as though Freddy's Gold Cup campaign would end without a sniff of action. However, in a real display of ballsiness, Bob Bradley elected to bring on Adu against Panama, hopeful that he would add a creative spark to a stodgy US performance; Adu duly obliged. Every time the ball arrived at his feet Adu had an idea, and as the game wore on it became clear that he also had the technique to execute them. With only a few minutes remaining, Adu sprayed a lovely cross field ball into space for Donovan, who's low cross was tapped in by Dempsey at the far post; Adu had produced the moment of magic Bradley was looking for, and had helped his team into the semi finals.

Clint Dempsey was on target to help the USA to their fourth consecutive Gold Cup final3. Bob Bradley has guts- I must admit, pre Panama I was convinced that Bob Bradley wouldn't have the guts to once again leave Landon Donovan out of the starting line-up, despite the United States' impressive performance without him last Sunday. However, Bradley proved me wrong, first by consigning Donovan to a place on the bench, and second by boldly introducing Freddy Adu with half an hour to go. While the decision to drop Donovan proved ill advised, Adu's introduction was a stroke of genius, a move which eventually resulted in the United States' winning goal, and a place in the Gold Cup final. As they say, "fortune favors the brave" Americans must hope that Bradley remains brave heading into the final, and hands Adu a deserved start.

4. Chicharito will win the tournament's golden boot- Landon Donovan called him "the hottest striker in the world" and the American international is dead right. At the moment, Chicharito is simply unplayable, a goal gobbling machine who is ninety minutes away from securing the tournament's Golden Boot. Though Mexico were already 1-0 up, Chicharito's clinching goal in extra time was hugely important, it allowed for a comfortable second period, and set the stage for indiscipline from the likes of Honduran Espinoza. There is no doubt that the man to watch for the US is the "Little Pea," but keeping him under a watchful eye is much easier said than done.

5. We've got the final that everybody wanted- The stage is set for an absolute barn burner. Mexico are the team in form, defending their championship and boasting a forward of real class within their ranks. The United States have ground out results despite not playing particularly well, and are ready to release the rejuvenated Freddy Adu onto their arch rivals. With a place at the 2013 Confederations Cup on the line, you can be sure that the game will be intense, an absorbing match up between two teams who don't particularly like each other. My prediction? Well, you'll have to wait until INFTH's Friday preview before I give you that...

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