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Mexico heavily favored in Group B
by Paul Kennedy, March 12th, 2008 6:45AM
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[SCOUTING REPORT] Like four and eight years ago, CONCACAF's Olympic men's qualifying draw has been set up so the USA and Mexico avoid each other in the decisive semifinals if they win their groups.

That didn't work out four years ago when Mexico, which had finished second behind Costa Rica, beat the USA, 4-0, in the semifinals, ending the Americans' string of qualifying for every Olympic tournament it has entered since its failure in 1976.

The chance of a USA-Mexico rematch increased on Tuesday when the USA had to settle for a 1-1 tie with Cuba in their opening Group A game.

Group B play begins on Wednesday at the Home Depot Center, where Mexico is the heavy favorite to win the group.

MEXICO. European club commitments deprived Coach Hugo Sanchez of such young stars as Giovani Dos Santos and Carlos Vela for the qualifying competition. That doesn't mean Sanchez is hurting for players.

Club America goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa, who helped Mexico to a semifinal berth at last year's Copa America and the first CONCACAF player nominated for the "Golden Ball" award, heads the Tri U-23s.

Six players, led by Cruz Azul's Cesar Villaluz, were members of Mexico's 2005 Under-17 World Cup championship team. Also on the team is Edgar Castillo, who grew up in New Mexico.

Goalkeepers: Guillermo Ochoa (Club America), Jonathan Orozco (Monterrey), Alfonso Blanco (Pachuca).
Defenders: Julio Cesar Dominguez (Cruz Azul), Luis Omar Hernandez (Necaxa), Hugo Ayala (Atlas), Francisco Gamboa (Toluca), Efrain Velarde (UNAM).
Midfielders: Jorge Hernandez (Atlas), Patricio Araujo (Guadalajara), Alan Zamora (Atlante), Juan Carlos Silva (Club America), Edgar Castillo (Santos), Cesar Villaluz (Cruz Azul), Pablo Barrera (UNAM).
Forwards: Sergio Avila (Guadalajara), Enrique Esqueda (Club America), Edgar Andrade (Cruz Azul), Santiago Fernandez (Toluca), Luis Angel Landin (Morelia).

GUATEMALA. Guatemala is seeking its fourth berth in the Olympic finals after qualifying for the Concacaf finals with a 2-1 win over Costa Rica in the Central American zone.

Its most promising star is 22-year-old winger Marvin Avila of Municipal. "Titi Man" scored the tying and winning goal in Guatemala's 3-2 win over Mexico in October's full international in Los Angeles.

Goalkeepers: Ricardo Jerez (Comunicaciones), Jaime Carvajal (USAC).
Defenders: Jaime Vides (Municipal), Cristian Noriega (Municipal), Pablo Solorzano (Jalapa), Carlos Castrillo (Jalapa), Erwin Morales (Comunicaciones), Wilson Lalin (Suchitepequez), Rafael Morales (Antigua).
Midfielders: Marvin Avila (Municipal), Manuel Leon (Municipal), Marco Pappa (Municipal), Jean Marquez (Jalapa), Wilfred Velasquez (Suchitepequez), Abner Trigueros, Jose Contreras, (Comunicaciones).
Forwards: Ignacio Lopez (Xelaju), Carlos Villa (Municipal), Jonny Brown (Heredia-Costa Rica), Jairo Arreola (Comunicaciones).

CANADA. To say the least, Canada coach Nick Dasovic struggled to put together his team. Five European-based players weren't released, and six others didn't begin arriving from Europe until Monday.

Canada, which hasn't played in the Olympics since 1984, has been training in California. The squad includes three players who play for U.S. colleges -- Dejan Jakovic (UAB), Ryan Hall (Syracuse Univ.) and Tosaint Ricketts (Wisconsin-Green Bay) -- and three others who are free agents.

"A lot of countries have had camps going back as far as two years as part of their program," Dasovic told the Canadian Press. "We've basically put two to three years of working into 10 days."

Asmir Begovic (Portsmouth-England), Joshua Wagenaar (no club), David Monsalve (no club).
DEFENDERS: Graham Ramalho (Groningen-Netherlands), Jacob Lensky (Feyenoord-Netherlands), Dejan Jakovic (UAB), Andre Hainault (Sparta Prague-Czech Rep.), Nikolas Ledgerwood (1860 Munich-Germany), Diaz Kambere (Vancouver Whitecaps), Tyler Hemming (Toronto FC).
MIDFIELDERS: Andrzej Ornoch (Esbjerg-Denmark), Ryan Gyaki (Hansa Rostock-Germany), Will Johnson (De Graafschap-Netherlands), Ryan Hall (Syracuse Univ.), Tyler Rosenlund (no club), Keegan Ayre (Berwick Rangers-Scotland), Isidro Sanchez-Macip (Puebla de Zaragoza-Mexico).
FORWARDS: Andrea Lombardi (Toronto FC), Tosaint Ricketts (Wisconsin-Green Bay), Marcus Haber (Groningen-Netherlands).

HAITI. Haiti secured a place in the final round of qualifying for the first time by taking first place in its Caribbean qualifying group thanks to a 2-1 win over Jamaica on goals by Bridrece Azor of Italian club Sampdoria and Fabrice Noel, the Florida product who played briefly for MLS's Colorado Rapids.

After that, Haiti's preparations were minimal, much to the consternation of Coach Wilner Etienne, whose criticism of the Haitian government for its lack of support received an immediate rebuke from the Haitian soccer federation.

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