Mexico's Oribe Peralta (left) and Yasser Corona (right) celebrate after scoring against Jamaica in the Copa America Centenario on June 9, 2016, in Pasadena, California, USA. (Photo: Mexsport)
HOUSTON – If there is pressure on Mexico to win the 2016 Copa America Centenario, the Tricolor is not showing any negative effects.
Mexico spent Sunday afternoon’s practice going through some last minute adjustments before a Monday meeting with Venezuela for first place in Group C at NRG Stadium. It was business as usual until a special guest showed up.
Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt, one of American football’s best-known stars, paid Mexico a visit during practice. He watched for about 30 minutes and then walked onto the field of the Texans’ indoor practice facility, dribbling a soccer ball and throwing a football with Mexico forward Raul Jimenez. Javier Hernandez gave Watt a soccer ball autographed by the entire team, while Watt presented “Chicharito” with an autographed No. 99 football jersey.
It was a moment of relaxation for the Mexico players, as well as Watt. Perhaps, it depicts the type of tournament Mexico is experiencing in the Copa America. The ride, thus far, has been a fun wave.
Head coach Juan Carlos Osorio talks about taking the competition seriously and staying focused on the tasks at hand, but has made it clear his team is prepared for any challenge. The 55-year-old Colombian also played down any notion that Mexico is a favorite to win the tournament.
“There’s not much to say about that,” Osorio said. “I think that Mexico has shown as a federation and as a team that it can compete within anything. We respect all of our opponents, but we think we have a great opportunity against any of them.”
Defender Miguel Layun has been on the field for every minute of the tournament and echoed those sentiments.
“The playing field in this Copa America is very level,” commented the 27-year-old. “Some great teams have been formed that are determined to fight against any rival and we are one of those teams. We have the capability and the ability to play against any team we face. I don’t like to label us and I don’t like to call ourselves the favorites. We know that the quality of play will be the same against any team we play.”
Mexico faces a Venezuela team that is coming off wins against Jamaica and Uruguay. Can the “Vinotino” surprise once again. Members of the seven-time CONCACAF Gold Cup champion are not worried.
They say there is no pressure. They are at the Copa America to go for a ride, while being focused to play the best soccer. Even if it’s with an NFL star, who crashed their practice.