Updated: Jul 8, 2020
The 2020 CONCACAF Nations League Finals were originally scheduled to be played in June but were postponed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic which we’ve become far too accustomed to.
Despite not being as glamorous and internationally recognized as its European counterpart, the CONCACAF Nations League deserves attention.
The predictions will be made in chronological order. Starting with the semi-finals and being rounded up by the hypothetical third-place play-off and, of course, final. It is worth noting that the United States are hosts.
Comfortable United States Win Expected in Semi-Final
Honduras obtained ten points in the Nations League group phase, going undefeated in the process.
The U.S. obtained nine points but lost to Canada in Toronto. La Bicolor may have obtained one more point than the Stars and Stripes. However, that is not solid evidence for them being any better.
Especially when you take into consideration that the second-best team of Honduras’ group was Martinique. A team that’s worse than Canada, which their 4-0 loss against the Canucks at the 2019 CONCACAF Gold Cup proves.
Furthermore, Honduras will be the away team in this fixture, and this is bad news for them because of the U.S’s solid home record as they've been undefeated on home soil in competitions since losing to Costa Rica in 2017. The U.S have improved a lot since then for it to repeat.
It goes without saying that the U.S are favorites, and I think they will win the tie. The question is only by how much.
Honduras only managed to score one and two goals away against Martinique and Trinidad and Tobago respectively, so a clean sheet is not out of bounds for the U.S. It will be a comfortable win, but not a demolition.
Semi-final 1 prediction: United States 2-0 Honduras.
Costa Rica Unlikely to Pose a Threat for Mexico
Mexico soared through the group stage, winning every game. In contrast, Costa Rica struggled. They only won one game, 2-1 against Curacao. This win was accompanied by two 1-1 draws against Haiti and a 0-0 draw against Curacao in San Jose.
FIFA World Rankings are far from an exact science, but Costa Rica’s ranking of 46th pales in comparison to Mexico in 11th place, further supporting the notion that El Tri are superior.
It’s worth pointing out that Los Ticos are a team who’s matches are even most of the time, regardless of the strength of the opponents.
For example, they held Mexico to a 1-1 draw at the 2019 Gold Cup. It will be a respectable performance, but a loss nonetheless.
Semi-final 2 prediction: Mexico 1-0 Costa Rica.
Little Separates Honduras and Costa Rica
Throughout the 2010s, all twelve matches played between the two nations finished either 1-1 or 1-0. Looking at their recent Nations League matches, it seems they are still even and it will be a close affair. It’s unlikely Costa Rica will keep a clean sheet, considering they couldn’t even manage that against teams like Haiti and Curacao.
But I don’t think Honduras will score more than one goal. In a similar fashion and for similar reasons, it’s difficult to see Costa Rica scoring more than once against Honduras. A penalty shootout is a possible conclusion. Costa Rica have to be favored in a shootout with their world-class goalkeeper Keylor Navas.
Hypothetical third-place play-off prediction: Honduras 1-1 Costa Rica.
Mexico Too Good for the United States
Even though the United States have taken strides forward since they failed to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, there is no denying that Mexico are the better team. Home soil will undoubtedly favor the USMNT, but that does not guarantee them victory.
This is proven by their failure to defeat Mexico in the 2019 Gold Cup final, losing 1-0 to El Tri. Mexico have performed better in the Nations League, too. Further cementing their status as the better team.
Hypothetical final prediction: United States 0-1 Mexico.