KAZAN, Russia (AP) – The game against host nation Russia will mean more to Mexico than just a spot in the Confederations Cup semifinal.
Coach Juan Carlos Osorio says it will be the perfect opportunity to show that Mexican soccer has matured and reached a level at which it can succeed under the most difficult circumstances.
''I honestly think that this is the perfect scenario for Mexican football,'' Osorio said Friday. ''We play away from home, against the host team, with a lot of support from their fans, and fighting for the qualification. We need to control the game and to show to ourselves, especially, that we can compete under such difficult circumstances.''
Mexico needs at least a draw in Saturday's game in Kazan to secure a spot in the semifinals of the eight-nation tournament that serves as a warm up for next year's World Cup. Mexico and Portugal have four points each after two rounds of games in Group A. Russia has three points and New Zealand zero. The top two teams advance to the semifinals.
Osorio said Mexico has been waiting for this type of game.
''It's an extraordinary scenario because it gives Mexican football and this group of players the possibility of showing that we have the capacity to take on this responsibility, that we have the talent and the determination to play in this scenario. If we do well, we will take a step forward, and we keep growing as team capable of playing against any team.''
Mexico faced host nations in the last two World Cups, drawing with South Africa in 2010 and with Brazil in 2014. It lost to Brazil in the 2013 Confederations Cup, and to Germany in the 2005 Confederations Cup.
''We can't play a game of this magnitude being afraid of losing,'' Mexico midfielder Andres Guardado said. ''We will be at a disadvantage if we enter the game with this mentality. We need to play with motivation. We know we have great chances of advancing.''
Osorio is certain to be without midfielder Carlos Salcedo, who suffered a shoulder injury in the game against New Zealand. Defender Hector Moreno is listed as doubtful because of a muscle injury.
Moreno scored the stoppage-time equalizer in Mexico's 2-2 opening draw against European champions Portugal. Mexico came from behind to defeat New Zealand 2-1 in its second game.
Guardado said he was glad that Mexican fans have stopped homophobic chants that prompted a warning by FIFA.
''I hope that it stays that way,'' he said. ''Not only here, but also at home in World Cup qualifiers we will be playing in the future.''