Mexico is not the favorite against Chile in the Copa America quarterfinals
It's written clearly -- and frivolously -- on the blackboard: Mexico's formula for winning the Copa America Centenario includes defeating Chile, Colombia and Argentina, all in the span of a week. Simple, right?
Mexico, the favorite?
If Mexico wasn't the favorite before the tournament started, it certainly isn't the favorite now. Mexico continues to be an interesting candidate to take a leading role in the Copa America, but from this point forward, it will not count favorite among its defining characteristics.
I've looked everywhere: on the field -- obviously -- off the field, in the moment that each team seems to be living, even in historical background information. There is simply no way to consider Mexico the favorite over Chile in the quarterfinal match set to be played on Saturday in the outskirts of San Francisco, CA. There just isn't. This goes beyond wrapping yourself in the Mexican flag and singing the national anthem. This is about football, and Mexico's rival has more going for it.
First place in the group, a bombastic 3-1 win over Uruguay, a long streak of 22 games unbeaten and, as always, the passion that only grows more intense with each passing game when Mexico plays a tournament in its second home -- the United States -- seem to have helped create a climate of confidence around this team. But fans should be warned -- this time Mexico has to confront a serious rival, a footballing side defined by the best generation of players in Chilean history. The team has already won a title, the 2015 Copa America. It's a side with players scattered among the world's top football leagues and clubs: Claudio Bravo at Barcelona, Gary Medel at Inter Milan, Arturo Vidal at Bayern Munich and Alexis Sanchez at Arsenal. Defeating Chile will not be easy.
What is also very clear is that Mexico's plans have not changed. Mexico was first in its group and Chile was second. From the beginning, both had this quarterfinal meeting booked. The question is: which side will come out on top? We'll know the answer at the end of 90 minutes, or after the penalty shootout established as the deadlock decider during this round of the tournament.
While Mexico is torn between controversial rotation systems and certain moments of good collective soccer and individual daring, Chile has grown over the course of the tournament. It lost to Argentina 2-1 in its opener, which is understandable, but finished with wins against Bolivia and Panama. Its main players -- Vidal, Sanchez, Medel, and Eduardo Vargas -- have taken the baton of the team. Its most vulnerable part, to put it one way, has been in goal, where the usually solid Bravo has had his worst moments as the man between the posts for the Chilean national team.
I don't see Mexico as the favorite, but that fact -- far from being a weakness -- could be another strength. This team, whose results have been positive, could perform even better than it already has. And that hope is enough, for now...
Chile-Mexico is a game with a reserved forecast. Anything could happen, and that, no doubt, makes it doubly attractive.
David Faitelson is based in Los Angeles and co-hosts "Nacion ESPN," ESPN Deportes' version of "SportsNation." Follow him on Twitter @Faitelson_ESPN.