Up until the quarterfinals, Mexico had gone about their business in this Gold Cup without too much incident. Sure, they started a bit slowly against El Salvador and Cuba, but there didn't appear to be anything to worry about. After El Tri beat the living snot out of Costa Rica to the tune of four goals in the first half, everyone thought Mexico's slow starts were a thing of the past. Then the Guatemala game happened.
In the opening minutes of the match, Hector Moreno completely whiffed on a long ball sent up towards Carlos Ruiz, leaving the striker wide open in the box. He chipped the ball over Alfredo Talavera, who came at him too aggressively, and Guatemala took a 1-0 lead.
Eventually Mexico stormed back in the second half as supersub Aldo de Nigris scored an equalizer, then 'Chicharito' Javier Hernandez netted the winner with a cheeky flick, but the emotion that most Mexican fans felt after the game was relief, not elation. Their tendency to get off to slow starts came back, and this time they escaped by the narrowest of margins.
If they play poorly in the first half against Honduras, Los Catrachos are likely to be less forgiving. Yes, Mexico is much more talented than Honduras, especially this current Honduras A-/B+ team, but Honduras are also much more talented than Guatemala, who are heavily reliant on a couple of players. They are deeper and more tactically astute, and if Mexico doesn't take them seriously or commits egregious errors, they will probably be made to pay.
Honduras will be missing a number of key players for this game, but they will get a couple of big boosts. First, the bad news. They are obviously without Maynor Figueroa and David Suazo, who were never named to the final squad in the first place, but they will also be without Emilio Izaguirre and Edder Delgado. The good news is that Carlo Costly and Wilson Palacios both played against Costa Rica and both will likely make appearances against Mexico.
For El Tri, nothing will change except for the presence of some new backup players. After five players were sent home for doping, Mexico has been able to call in five replacements. Hector Reynoso, Hiram Mier, and Paul Aguilar have all joined up with the team in Houston, while both Luis Michel and Marco Fabian are on call in case anyone sustains an injury in the semifinal.
Mexico are favorites and against a weakened Honduras squad, they shouldn't be too bothered. Their match against Costa Rica shows that they have the ability to tear apart any team in CONCACAF, but their match against Guatemala also shows that they can be challenged when they aren't focused. So, the outcome of this game likely depends on which Mexico team shows up to start the game. If it's the unfocused Mexico, this came could get very interesting. If it's the Mexico that showed up against Costa Rica, goodnight Catrachos.
For more on Mexican football and the Mexico vs. Honduras match, check out SB Nation's Mexican football blog FMF State Of Mind.