Curacao bowed out of this year’s Gold Cup with a 2-0 defeat to the tournament’s defending champions, Mexico…
REPORTING FROM THE ALAMODOME, SAN ANTONIO – Angel Sepulveda headed Mexico in front on 22 minutes, left unmarked at the back post and allowed to head back across goal, sending the Mexican fans into a frenzy. Substitute Edson Alvarez then added a late second, curling the ball into the bottom corner to put the game to bed.
Remko Bicentini said in the build-up that he would give some players on the periphery an opportunity to play. And he stuck to his word, making five changes to the lineup that lost to El Salvador. Shanon Carmelia and Ayrton Statie featured in the Gold Cup for the first time, while Michael Maria, Quenten Martinus and Gino van Kessel all started. Gevaro Nepomuceno played in the hole in behind van Kessel with Martinus and Jarchinio Antonia out wide.
Curacao, in particular van Kessel, squandered two very decent opportunities in the early exchanges. For the first, the striker pounced on a loose ball and advanced before being unleashing a wild shot. The second was an even clearer chance as Michael Maria teed him up, but needed the shot to be more precise.
Stand-in captain Eloy Room was called upon to make a string of saves throughout the game, although in the first half many of Mexico’s shots were more or less straight at the Vitesse keeper. Not in the second, though, as Room produced several top quality saves to deny El Tri.
And in the second half Curacao began with intent; Leandro Bacuna taking initiative from midfield and driving his team on. The Aston Villa man saw his header hit the crossbar. They were pushing for that equalizer but the ball just wouldn’t go in. Van Kessel forced Jesus Corona into a great reaction save before, in the same move, Gevaro Nepomuceno struck the bar (again) with a fierce long-range drive. When it rains, it pours as they say.
The Caribbean Cup’s highest scorers finished the tournament having failed to score in any of their three outings, yet the chances were there for them. The defending Gold Cup champions were poor after the break and their fans brought out the boos towards the end, voicing their disgruntlement. You have to give credit to Curacao for the way in which they came out and had a go, despite not being able to register a goal to shake things up.
Perhaps inexperience at this level took its toll on Curacao. Not necessarily individual inexperience, but more as a collective. Cuco Martina having to leave camp to sign with Everton – as well as Felitciano Zschusschen for Inverness – didn’t help in the defensive department, particularly against El Salvador as the team were vulnerable at the back.
Like with any campaign, there are positives and negatives to take. Bicentini and the players will no doubt evaluate and review ahead of making another attempt at qualifying for the next Gold Cup, scheduled for 2019.
Post-match quotes below.
Eloy Room (Curacao): “If you see the whole 90 minutes, we made it difficult for them. The story of this tournament for us has been creating a lot of chances but not killing them. I think it’s been a combination of bad luck and lack of quality. At this level you need to score your chances. But we showed today that we can play against the big teams like Mexico.” On the tournament as a whole: “I think this has been a positive campaign. We began two years ago with Patrick Kluivert and wanted to get to the Gold Cup. We’re still a young team and are still learning and developing. We have a bright future.”
Elson Hooi (Curacao): “I think it was a very good performance and that we played good football. We had a lot of chances to make it 1-1. I think we play amazing football and I have no words for the missed chances.” On not starting: “I think the coach wanted to try something else. I have to respect his decision.” On the process of trying to find a new club as a current free agent: “I have a few options but I’ll wait to see which is the best option. To play in the Eredivisie again would be great, but I also have a few options in Australia and in the United States.”
Leandro Bacuna (Curacao): “I think we did well. Today we played for pride. It was the same story throughout the tournament – we created a lot of chances and were in the game against all the teams we played. We had a great chance early on and if we would’ve scored, then it would’ve been a different game. As a group we can look back on a good tournament but we were unfortunate. We keep working and will try to qualify again, as well as the World Cup. We’ll see how far we get.”
Michael Maria (Curacao): “I think we played very well, above our own expectations. Unfortunately in the last games, we couldn’t finish and that’s sad because we’ve been doing a lot of good work. We didn’t get what we deserved. I was happy to start and that the coach gave me an opportunity. Playing from the beginning is always different but I did my best and tried to help the team out.” On playing in Germany at club level: “I just signed a new contract in the German second division. I haven’t properly been there yet, only to sign my contract and then I came straight to the national team. So it’s been a bit up in the air.”
Curacao starting lineup: Room (C), Carmelia, Mulder, Lachman, Statie, Maria, Bacuna, Antonia, Martinus, Nepomuceno, van Kessel.
Subs: Bernardus – Antonia. Hooi – Nepomuceno. Janga – Statie. Unused: Pieter, Sumter, Justiana, Jakoba, Agustien, Gaari.
Mexico starting lineup: Corona, Rodriguez, Pereira, Montes, Lopez, Reyes, Jorge Hernandez, Gutierrez (C), Barragan, Sepulveda, Pineda.
Subs: Elias Hernandez – Rodriguez. Alvarez – Barragan. Unused: Munoz, Fraga, Mayorga, Ayala, Marin, Duenas, Gallardo, Pizarro, Molina, Torres.
Referee: Kimball Ward (St Kitts & Nevis). Assistant referee 1: Graeme Browne (St Kitts & Nevis). Assistant referee 2: Joseph Bertrand (Trinidad & Tobago). Fourth official: John Pitti (Panama). Match commissioner: Yves Jean-Bart (Haiti).
By Nathan Carr