Concacaf Nations League: Experimenting Mexico & A Panama-Bermuda Battle

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There's a clear favorite In Group B of League A in the first-ever Concacaf Nations League. But while there should no surprise if Mexico wins the group, Bermuda and Panama might provide some intrigue as the teams look to avoid relegation to League B.

Bermuda are one of the more surprising teams to find themselves in League A this year. On the back of a strong qualifying phase, the Gombey Warriors qualified for their first-ever Gold Cup, which ended in a group stage exit. Both games against Panama take place during the September FIFA window, so there should be a good indication of whether or not Bermuda can cause a surprise by then.

That said, Panama, fresh off their 2018 World Cup appearance, should be aiming to finish behind Mexico in 2019.

Bermuda

Credit the Gombey Warriors for winning three of their four qualifying games to get into League A. An opening-day defeat to Aruba could have derailed Bermuda, but instead they turned around their campaign, in big part to a surprising 1-0 win over El Salvador. 

Kyle Lightbourne's side acquitted themselves well at the 2019 Gold Cup, finishing third in their group. They beat Nicaragua for their first-ever win at the tournament but only suffered narrow 2-1 defeats to both Haiti and Costa Rica. They face an uphill battle in League A but faced long odds in getting to this point to begin with.

Most of the squad plays their club ball either in Bermuda or in the lower divisions in England. But Nahki Wells, who scored twice in the Gold Cup, plays in the English Championship for Queens Park Rangers. Along with Zeiko Lewis, who plays for the Charleston Battery, the two attackers could be the source of any upset goals for Bermuda in League A.

Mexico

Under Gerardo Martino, Mexico are such heavy favorites for this group that there might be a temptation to try to get some newer, younger players some game time during League A play. Without a litany of stars available this summer, Tata led Mexico to Gold Cup glory, defeating the United States in the final. Mexico have the luxury of being able to see what happens in the first two games in the group from the sidelines, not joining the competition until October.

How Martino manages this tournament might be the most intriguing story to watch from League A. Can he convince some of the absent players from the Gold Cup to make their return to El Tri? It appears that Carlos Vela's international career is over, but Hector Herrera, Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez, and Jesus "Tecatito" Corona all declined Gold Cup participation for various reasons. 

This tournament might be the most opportune time to get Diego Lainez fully integrated into the setup. The Real Betis youngster has already made his Mexico debut for the senior team but played with the U-20 team at this summer's World Cup. With the level of opponents opposite of Mexico, Lainez might benefit from an extended run out with El Tri

Panama

Don't overlook Panama in Leauge A. Américo Gallego's side might have had an earlier-than-expected exit from the Gold Cup, but Los Canaleros have shown an ability to cause upsets over the years within Concacaf play. It might finally be time for Panama to start phasing out some of the old guard, though, the players who carried them to the country's first-ever World Cup appearance last summer. 

Roman Torres, Armando Cooper, and Alberto Quintero were all part of the Panama team that lost 1-0 to Jamaica in the Gold Cup quarterfinals. All could certainly help out Panama in the upcoming Nations League but might not be as pivotal for Panama's 2022 World Cup qualifying campaign. 

Playing the first two games against Bermuda should help Gallego figure out what he might want to do with Panama for the two games against Mexico. Two wins against Bermuda would likely ensure that Panama stays up in Leauge A, which could allow Gallego to see his options against Mexico. 

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