With a 4-1 victory over Panama on Friday, Mexico achieved something historic—their first victory in Panama in any competition since 1936.
Some smaller honors were also secured, like a guaranteed first place finish in Group B, a place in the Gold Cup, a FIFA ranking that keeps Mexico on track for a place in the Hexagonal section of CONCACAF’s FIFA World Cup qualification tournament, and a place in the Nations League semifinal,
And so, Tuesday’s game against Bermuda in Toluca may appear on the surface that it holds little for the senior selection. With manager Gerardo Martino already announcing that there will be significant changes from the lineup that faced Panama, all indications point to Mexico’s technical staff also seeing few stakes in the match in Toluca.
As for Bermuda, there is everything to play for. A win or draw of any kind could earn the Caribbean side a surprise automatic place in the 2021 Gold Cup and see the Canaleros have to play the Gold Cup qualifying tournament and qualify for the 2022 FIFA World Cup through the knockout path that only offers, at most, one intercontinental playoff place.
Bermuda do not expect to have the feeling of losing access to the top path from a strong position. But they still showed they could threaten El Tri. Bermuda were good at identifying and exploiting weaknesses in Mexico’s defensive transitions between lines and in transition (and set pieces), but lacked the precision in finishing their chances. Bermuda also earned their only victory of the Nations League so far away from home.
The squad Bermuda manager Kyle Lighthouser could bring to Toluca might not be known until close to game time. Such unpredictability is expected with a squad with many semi-professional players based in non-League levels of England, USL, Bermuda, or Estonia. But there could also still be many players with more first team football experience than many of the players Mexico could field.
Although Gerardo Martino has done something to instill a concept of play that’s allowed him to interchange players more effectively, Tuesday’s game could be an indicator as to what that limit might be going forward even though it is exactly a struggle against experienced professionals (and semi-pros) that carries continuing lessons for the young players who could feature on Tuesday.
The match kicks off at 9:30 PM EST (UTC -5) and can be seen in the United States on UniMás, TUDN, and FloFC.