Ramon Ramirez (#6) -- one of Mexico and CONCACAF's biggest stars in the 1990s -- was named the best player at the 1993 CONCACAF Gold Cup. (Photo: Mexsport)
It is hard to believe that retired Mexico international Ramon Ramirez is 45-years-old. When you think of CONCACAF’s top players in the 1990s, the midfielder would be at the top of many lists. While winning 121 caps for the Tricolor, he played in four CONCACAF Gold Cups, two World Cups, three Copa Americas and three Confederations Cups. Ramirez was a key member of the 1999 Confederations Cup-winning squad, starting in both the semifinal victory over the United States and the historic triumph over Brazil in the final.
Why is it important for Mexico to participate in the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup?
The tournament is important since it leads up to a World Cup. It is a way of recognizing who has been the best team in the region. From a sporting perspective, it is the start of the World Cup.
How will the CONCACAF Cup add to the Mexico/USA rivalry?
A lot. This match is going to increase interest at a sporting level. The United States has gained a lot of traction in football and in terms of fans. I remember multiple matches in California, Texas and Chicago, in which Mexican fans outnumbered Americans, but that is not the case anymore, I don’t think that will happen. The American fans stand behind their team. They feel and display their passion, so it is not going to be easy. The truth is that between these two teams there is no favorite.
The U.S. is the 2013 Gold Cup champion, while Mexico won the 2015 edition. Do you think that there is any advantage to be gained on the basis of when the title was captured?
No advantage at all. Between the United States and Mexico, the passion and rivalry is so strong that neither feels like the lesser team. I don’t think that either team can be overconfident. Mexico should not underestimate its opponent, nor feel superior after the match against Argentina, while the United States is a better team than what it displayed against Brazil.
You played against the USA in the 1999 Confederations Cup semifinal in Mexico City. Mexico won 1-0 after extra time. What are your memories of that game?
It was a very even match, very difficult. At that time, we felt that the advantage of Mexico City’s altitude played to our favor. We had more chances, but we had to go to extra time because the United States had improved a lot. They were physically better and the altitude didn’t affect them as much as expected. Our focus was on avoiding penalties. We wanted to win in regulation time, but it wasn’t easy at all.