(Rachel's been cheering on Guadeloupe in the Gold Cup from the start. No, really.)
See, this is one of the many times I disagree with Luis. I don't think this Gold Cup has ensured Mexico and the U.S. as 1-2 at all. Not when Mexico actually loses to Honduras and the US squeaks out two wins by a single goal in group play.
Mexico could have easily lost to Cuba, Panama and Costa Rica. The U.S. was a great Tim Howard save from going down early, and who knows what would have happened then? How much different would things have been for the U.S playing a full-strength Trinidad and Tobago team? Even the junior version had chances.
Call me crazy, but I'm not confident that Mexico can get past Guadeloupe, either. It would be an upset for the ages, but they've played some good soccer. If Guadeloupe can take out Mexico, I can't see how every other small qualifying team couldn't be inspired and more hopeful of doing the same.
Bottom line, these games and close calls happened here in the U.S., which, despite the fervor of immigrant fans, is nothing like the support these teams receive at home during qualifying. Plus, a lot of the smaller teams just don't have the depth to really compete in the shortened tournament schedule because their best guys get tired. During qualifying, games are more spread out, so they'll be well rested. So I disagree that Mexico and the U.S. qualifying for the World Cup is going to be a foregone conclusion. In fact, I predict that within the next couple of cycles, one of the two won't make it. On current form, it could be Mexico.
In some ways, I think it took the Galaxy missing the playoffs (they were the last MLS team to never have done so) for people to pipe down a little about how such a feat was so simple. Less than twenty years ago, it took a near-miracle for the U.S. to make its first World Cup after around 50 years of absence. Besides the emergence of Canada, I think Guatemala has a new confidence that it can get results against the U.S., and by extension, Mexico. Honduras can definitely take on either crew and Costa Rica can bounce back from recent poor form. Heck, I think Jamaica will become a threat again under their new coach, because I think they're taking this qualifying very seriously. They're probably pissed that Trinidad and Tobago made it to the World Cup and they didn't. Jamaica tied the U.S. pre-World Cup team last year. They manage a draw around every other time they play the U.S. They're not afraid of either of the so-called big teams.
This Gold Cup showed what a dust-up CONCACAF can be. Mexico has emerged bruised and taken a serious confidence dent, while the U.S. gets the tougher semifinal, so nothing is given. I'm not saying that I expected to see Canada and Guadeloupe in the title game, but who expected Panama last time around? Who expected them to take the U.S. to penalties?
To play off the old phrase by Sepp Herberger, "The ball is round, the game lasts for 90 minutes, on any given day, any given team can defeat either the U.S. or Mexico in CONCACAF qualifying."