With the CONCACAF Gold Cup kicking off on Tuesday, here is my mini preview of the Caribbean representatives’ prospects at this year’s tournament…
System: There are 12 competitors drawn into three groups (A-C), with the top two teams from each group and the two best third-placed teams qualifying for the last eight. In terms of tiebreakers, the ranking of each side in each group will be determined as follows:
- Greatest number of points obtained in group matches
- Goal difference in all group matches
- Greatest number of goals scored in all group matches
- Greatest number of points obtained in group matches between the teams concerned;
- Drawing of lots by the Gold Cup Committee.
– Access all the 23-man squads here.
– Access the 13 host cities here.
Manager: Marc Collat
Previous best performance in Gold Cup: Quarterfinals (2002, 2009)
‘Underdog’ tag could suit them
Les Grenadiers won’t be given much of a chance in Group A, with defending champions USA, 2013 runners-up Panama and 2014 World Cup team Honduras the opposition. But playing as minnows could work in their favour if the other three let complacency creep in. Could they spring a surprise?
One of strongest squads to date
The fact that Haiti’s 23-man squad includes only one domestic-based player is indicative of its strength. Martinique-born Marc Collat, who was appointed Haitian manager last year, has selected 22 overseas-based players with countries such as USA, Belgium, Russia, Cyprus and Switzerland being represented. Standard Liege playmaker Jeff Louis is the stand-out man in midfield, capable of playing on either wing and down the centre.
More professionalism and seriousness
Perhaps what has crippled Haiti’s prospects in the past is a lack of serious preparation, leaving everything until the last minute. That doesn’t seem the case this time round, however. They’ve been in training since 22 June and played three warm-up friendlies: beating NASL club Jacksonville Armada 10-3 on aggregate and narrowly losing to Trinidad & Tobago 0-1 last Friday. The Fédération Haïtienne de Football (FHF) have shown their support and this has created a more professional and competitive environment.
PREDICTION: 3rd place in group, failure to reach knockout phase
Manager: Winfried Schäfer
Previous best performance in Gold Cup: Third Place (1993)
In the Copa América out in Chile, Jamaica more than held their own, but in truth they weren’t expected to get out of their group. For the Gold Cup, though, there will be a larger amount of pressure on them to do so because this is a regional competition, the supporters want more. A different mentality, drive and attitude will be needed.
Lack of goals a concern
Jamaica’s inability to score at the Copa means that they must address this goal drought. Assistant coach Miguel Coley insists that there will be more emphasis on attacking play – they can afford to take more risks against supposedly weaker opposition – so the likes of Darren Mattocks and Giles Barnes must be clinical when they receive their chances. Defence and to an extent midfield isn’t a problem, it’s just in attack where they’ve recently struggled. That should change at the Gold Cup.
PREDICTION: 2nd place in group, semifinals finish
TRINIDAD & TOBAGO
Manager: Stephen Hart
Previous best performance in Gold Cup: Third Place (2000)
Key players missing
Star player Kevin Molino, Hughtun Hector, Carlyle Mitchell, Seon Power and Robert Primus are all sidelined, while the Hoyte brothers, Justin and Gavin, have decided to focus on club commitments in England. Molino is a particularly significant blow as the Soca Warriors could really have done with his energy, flair and experience.
The boss Stephen Hart explains: “Our opponents have played five more games than us this year. We have to sit down and evaluate what we are doing with the national team programme. We have a public that demands results but everyone else prepares (while we are) finding out the night before that you are travelling to Jordan or Curaçao. And big men with families have to find someone to pick up their children and so on. Who operates like this?”. Incidentally, Trinidad lost 0-1 to Curacao and 0-3 to Jordan, failing to register a goal on either occasion.
Are there any positives?
They’re in a relatively favourable group when you compare the others. Mexico aside, Guatemala are beatable and Cuba are on a similar level to Trinidad in footballing ability. It’s still a gifted bunch of players that Hart has at his disposal, with captain Kenwyne Jones headlining. A repeat of their 2013 quarter-final finish would be classed as a respectable achievement given the circumstances.
PREDICTION: 3rd place in group, quarterfinals finish
Manager: Raúl González Triana
Previous best performance in Gold Cup: Quarterfinals (2003, 2013)
Blend of youth and experience
Cuba’s squad has a nice mixture of steely experience and youthful exuberance. Maykel Reyes, Andy Vaquero, Adrián Diz and Arichel Hernández featured in the country’s U-20 World Cup journey two years ago. Long-limbed frontman Reyes is an especially promising youngster who is expected to lead the line. Meanwhile, veteran captain Yénier Márquez, Jorge Luís Clavelo and Ariel Martínez offer more Gold Cup know-how. There’s a good balance there.
There’s an interesting political backdrop to Leones del Caribe‘s participation at this year’s Gold Cup with the recent rapprochement between Cuba and the USA. Will the Cuban players feel they have to defect? We shall see.
PREDICTION: 4th place in group, failure to reach knockout phase
By Nathan Carr