Mexico head coach Juan Carlos Osorio (pictured) at the Copa America Centenario draw on February 21, 2016, in New York City. (Photo: Mexsport)
NEW YORK – His nickname is “professor” and Mexico head coach Juan Carlos Osorio has certainly done his homework on the Tricolor’s opponents in the Copa America Centenario.
Shortly after the draw was announced Sunday at Hammerstein Ballroom, Osorio already had a clear understanding of the sides he will face when the tournament kicks off in June.
After a pair of matches against Canada in the fourth round of CONCACAF qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in March, Mexico will return to competitive action with its Copa opener against Uruguay in Glendale, Arizona, on June 5. Four days later, the CONCACAF Gold Cup champion faces Jamaica at the Rose Bowl and then closes out Group C play against Venezuela on June 13 in Houston.
Mexico will already be familiar with the venues, having played in each recently. And, of course, Osorio is astutely aware of each team’s strengths.
The 54-year-old is also very-well acquainted with many of the Venezuelan players competing in Colombia, where he managed Millonarios and Once Caldas. Additionally, defender Gabriel Cichero and midfielder Jorge Rojas played under Osorio at the New York Red Bulls.
“Jamaica has strong, fast, quick players. Uruguay is very good on set pieces, plus the ability of the forwards, [Edinson] Cavani, Luis Suarez to score goals and Venezuela is a very technical team,” Osorio said. “The three teams are going to be very difficult to beat.”
The goal, as always for Mexico, is to finish atop the group. In last year’s Copa America – with a roster different than the one that went on to capture the Gold Cup -- it did not advance out of a group that included host Chile, Bolivia and Ecuador.
“Our main objective and our main purpose has to be to finish first, but we understand it’s a chance for all the countries in the continent to show the world what they are capable of,” expressed Osorio. “I couldn’t predict anything, but I expect our team to have very good games and to compete for first place.”
Possible quarterfinal opponents are Argentina and defending champion Chile. Both South American powers would provide a significant challenge, but Osorio signaled Mexico will be up for it, regardless of the opposition.
“With respect to Argentina’s years of history and Chile’s recent history, Mexico is ready to compete on equal terms against anybody,” he finished.