USA-Mexico remain the biggest rivalry, but USA and Canada are now “the top two teams” in CONCACAF


Ricardo Pepi, Christian Pulisic and the USMNT go into Sunday’s CONCACAF Nations League final as favorites to defeat Canada. (Photo by John Dorton/USSF/Getty Images for USSF)

PARADISE, Nevada — Canada players danced through the bowels of Allegiant Stadium as the madness between the US and Mexico began. They had just won a businesslike victory over Panama. They had showered and relaxed. On the way to their team bus, some watched the second semi-final of the CONCACAF Nations League. They watched the second half on TV from their hotel. They saw the hand-to-hand combat, the vicious tackles, the flying beer and more, and two days later midfielder Ismaël Koné’s eyes widened just remembering it.

“Crazy stuff happened there,” Koné said on Saturday.

“It was a bit much,” said midfielder Atiba Hutchinson, laughing.

They all agreed that Sunday’s finals, USA vs Canada (9pm ET, Paramount+/Univision), will be a little more civil and less chaotic. “We don’t expect it to be a total four red card game,” said defenseman Alistair Johnston. They know that the US-Mexico rivalry, as the region’s greatest rivalry, will always be the most explosive; and that the US and Canada may never match their fireworks.

But it can turn into a legendary rivalry because as Johnston said: “We think we are the top two teams [in the region] at the moment.”

Of course, Johnston is a little biased, but he’s also right. By almost every conceivable method of measurement, Canada and the USA are the top two men’s teams in CONCACAF. Neither of them lost to Mexico in World Cup qualifiers. As El Tri While the two North American neighbors are in crisis, they are recovering. They are both related. Both have quality. According to Transfermarkt, they have the two most valuable squads in the region and far more top talent.

“Mexico are obviously a great team,” said Johnston kindly (and incorrectly). “But the US has somehow shown that they are a notch up at the moment. And now it is our turn to show that we belong at this level as well.”

They are still considered outsiders in many ways. As a footballing nation, they are at a much earlier stage of growth. Your professional league is still in its infancy. Your federation is a bumbling mess. You have fewer resources. Their player pool is less deep. The Americans are favorites for Sunday’s showdown at BetMGM and “are now leaders in CONCACAF,” admitted Canada head coach John Herdman. The Canadians, who hadn’t even reached the finals of World Cup qualifiers this century by 2021, are still catching up.

But they no longer feel or act like minnows. They walk and talk with confidence, “with confidence that we can play with anyone in this region,” Johnson said.

“I’m perfectly fine with sticking with the underdog story,” he clarified. But: “Do we really feel like outsiders? I do not believe that.”

Alphonso Davies and Canada meet the USMNT in Sunday’s CONCACAF Nations League final. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

They have Alphonso Davies and Jonathan David, the two brightest stars in the region. They beat and drew USA in the last qualifying round and ended up at the top of the CONCACAF table. They failed in Qatar, stumbling on complacency and bad luck, but their mere presence at the World Cup and experience there set a floor and raised their ceiling for 2026.

“I think we’ve earned everyone’s respect in this region because they might not see us the way they used to see us,” said Johnston, who plays for Celtic in Scotland.

“If you look at the last four years,” Hutchison said, “then I think we’ve already sent the message that we’re here now and we’re going to stay here.”

And if so, will this rivalry last?

In all likelihood, things will never be as uneasy and disorderly as between the US and Mexico. There are mutliple reasons for this. “I think we’re more relaxed teams,” Koné remarked. They also have less media pressure and less passionate fanbases. Half-empty ranks do not increase game temperature. In Sunday’s final, Herdman emphasized: “There won’t be 70,000 Canadians in the stadium to sort of end the whole thing.”

“But,” he added, “I think you can expect it to get hot.”

“We don’t plan to make MMA out of this,” Johnston said. “But at the same time, as we all know, it is CONCACAF. Things are going CONCACAFy. . And we agree with that. There will be some dark arts.”

And it is precisely when it comes to trophies that rivalries arise. derbies, right? classic, as they are called in football, do not appear out of thin air; They cannot be crafted. They feed on moments. They grow out of history. And Sunday is a unique opportunity to write something.

Source link

Leave a Comment