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Another Gold Cup Preview

Guest Ed

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This one is quite good, with some intentional humour (that's a switch!). Check his pick for Group B!! From CyberSoccerNews:


Gold Cup Preview

A team-by-team closeup

by Alex Moffett

I could start things out by complaining about everything that’s wrong with the CONCACAF Gold Cup-awful television coverage, disinterested guest nations, and general all-around second rate-ness-but that would be soooo 1998.

With the improvement of so many teams in CONCACAF over the last few years, and positioned as the tournament is less than a year before the start of World Cup qualifying, this year’s edition of the Gold Cup promises to be one of the most intriguing yet.

Both the giants of CONCACAF go into this tournament with something to prove. Mexico have looked offensively stagnant, having only mustered three goals so far in the six game tenure of Ricardo Lavolpe.

"There’s a nice little loophole so that even if Mexico finish second in Group A, the Group B winner would have to travel to Mexico for the quarter final match..."

Lavolpe will be under enormous pressure to produce results in this tournament, but they will benefit from a tournament configuration that can generously be described as favorable: all their games will be played in the fortress that is Estadio Azteca. Any slip-ups, and Mexico may have a new coach for qualification.

However, despite all the pressure, Mexico should be considered strong favorites to win the tourney.

The US will want to prove that their Confederations Cup performance was an insignificant blip in their journey towards a fifth consecutive World Cup appearance. Bruce Arena has always been commendably serious about the Gold Cup, never yielding the temptation to field sub-par squads.

Once again Arena is deploying the best available team in an effort to defend their 2002 title. - yes, it was only a year and a half ago.

Throw in hungry teams such as Costa Rica, Jamaica and Guatemala, and a couple of youthful South American guest teams, and you have a fairly exciting and unpredictable tournament, and one that will determine the form book for Germany 2006 World Cup qualifying.

Here is a group by group breakdown, with a few predictions on each team’s final group standing:

Group A: Mexico, Honduras, Brazil. Based in Mexico City.


Sure, people say this is an under strength Mexico squad, something they always bring for non-World Cup games. But it happens to be an under strength squad with World Cup vets Jared Borghetti, Jesus Arellano, Rafa Marquez, and Salvador Carmona.

It also happens to be an under strength squad coached by the under-fire Ricardo Lavolpe, who will be desperate to produce an excellent performance here after winning only one of his first six games in charge.

It also happens to be an under strength squad who will play all their matches in Mexico City regardless of where they finish in the group.

There’s a nice little loophole so that even if Mexico finish second in Group A, the Group B winner would have to travel to Mexico for the quarter final match.

Make no mistake, dear reader, this Mexican team is not only favorites to win the group, but also the cup itself. Look for Lavolpe to make a statement to his opponents and his critics by going for an attacking strategy at home. Prediction: 1st.


Another minor international tournament, another Brazilian B-team. But, of course, the thing about those Brazilian B-teams is that they’re so darn talented, and therefore you can never discount them.

Unlike the team that underwhelmed in the Confederations Cup, this version is the Under-23 team, with promising prospects Kaka, Ewerthon and Thiago Motta expected to get playing time.

Brazil will come into this tournament with hungry young players who have nothing to lose, and that alone should see them into the final eight.

Their biggest concern is probably the heat and altitude conditions in which they’ll have to play in Mexico City, but they could pose the hosts quite a few problems, particularly if the scoreline stays 0-0 and the Mexicans get nervous. Prediction: 2nd.


Honduras is the CONCACAF equivalent of the bridesmaid that tries really hard but never quite catches the bouquet at the wedding ceremony.

In 2001 they made waves in CONCACAF by dispatching Mexico and the United States away, but somehow managed to trip up in a home match against Trinidad.

The Catrachos lost in the UNCAF Cup to Costa Rica and Guatemala, and only managed a somewhat feeble draw with Panama; they only stumbled into this tournament after winning in a playoff against Caribbean teams. Recent results have been better but a late June draw against El Salvador suggests that this team is not yet where they want to be.

This Honduras squad does have some experienced players from their 2001 Cup run, including David Suazo, but they are missing players like Pavon and Nunez, who were so influential on that team.

Against a desperate Mexico and a relaxed Brazil, Honduras are going to have considerable difficulties, but they will at least have the confidence of knowing they’re one of the very few teams who have beaten Mexico at home. Prediction: 3rd.

Group B: Colombia, Guatemala, Jamaica. Based in Miami

© Juan Miranda Foto/LA Galaxy



Group B is probably the most unpredictable of the four groups, so I’m going to go out on something of a limb and predict the Chapines will finally get some success here.

They’re bringing a talented and fairly experienced squad including players like Dwight Pezzarozzi, Juan Carlos Plata, Freddy Garcia, and every referee’s favorite, Carlos Ruiz.

Guatemala have been playing some fairly good soccer in the lead-up to the tournament, edging El Salvador, and dropping close games against quality sides Peru and Honduras.

They tanked out of the 2002 edition of the Gold Cup, so they will badly want to progress to the second week of this tournament. And if you need another reason why Guatemala will progress from this group, I give you Carlos Ruiz’s middle name: Humberto.

Guatemala has the potential to be one of the Cinderella (or perhaps I should say Lolita) teams of the tournament. Prediction: 1st.


Five years on from their incredible fairytale performance to get to France 98, and it’s still hard to know quite what to make of this Jamaican side.

On one hand they have a squad of serious professionals, many have whom have considerable experience playing in the English and American professional leagues.

On the other hand their recent results demonstrate a penchant for underachieving: how many other national teams can boast two losses to Cuba in the same calendar year?

The Reggae Boyz are short of firepower for this tournament: strikers Keith Kelly and Paul Hall are absent, and Hall’s Rushden and Diamonds teammate, the redoubtable Onandi Lowe, is only an alternate.

But having experienced players such as Theodore Whitmore, James Lawrence, and the dangerous Bolton winger Ricardo Gardner gives them a good chance of seeing second round action. Prediction: 2nd.


They finished 4th at the Confederations Cup, but this Colombia squad is nothing like the team that at times looked very dangerous in France.

Coach Francisco Maturana has explicitly indicated that he is going to be using the Gold Cup to evaluate new players. Only Deportivo Cali midfielders Jairo Patino and Giovanni Hernandez remain from the Confederations Cup squad; the rest of the 24 man full roster are new call-ups.

Hernandez was one of their most dangerous players in France, scoring three goals, but for him to make a similar impact on the Gold Cup he will need the rest of the team to coalesce, and quickly.

Despite their pedigree and a sympathetic Miami crowd, the former finalists might find it tough to emerge from this group. “It would be very cheeky on my part,” said Maturana, “as well as over-optimistic, to think that...we are going to form a team that one could say is going to win.” Ah… yep. Prediction: 3rd.

Group C: USA, El Salvador, Martinique. Based in Foxboro.


Yeah, the US looked distinctly mediocre in the Confederations Cup, but honestly, can you name any team in that tournament who impressed you? For the Americans, the Confederations Cup performance could be an example of bottoming out at just the right time.

Bruce Arena will want to see more energetic performances, especially against potential World Cup qualifying opponents, and a spirited warm-up against Paraguay was a sign that the US feel they have something to prove after going three and out in France.

It will be interesting to see how Claudio Reyna will be used; this is his first serious soccer since last year’s debilitating knee injury.

At Foxboro, where they never seem to lose, and with a cupcake first round draw, the Americans are the clear favorites to get out of this group, but to successfully defend their 2002 title, they’ll have to win in the Azteca. Prediction: 1st.


Last time round in the Gold Cup, the Salvadoreans were eviscerated by a Brian McBride hat trick. This time round Coach Juan Ramon Parades will not want to see his side fall so easily.

El Salvador brings to this tournament a young side that Parades will want to gain experience before World Cup qualifying begins next year.

They’ve been playing well recently, gaining a 1-1 draw with Honduras, hanging with Paraguay in a 1-0 loss, and most sensationally, defeating Mexico 2-1 in Mauricio Cienfuegos’ farewell match in the Home Depot Center off goals from Diego Meija

and Rudis Corrales, both promising strikers in their early 20’s.

However, they did drop a disappointing 2-1 decision to Guatemala this week. El Salvador will play the US a lot tougher than last year, but should still probably come up short in the match this Saturday. Prediction: 2nd.


So far, Martinique’s greatest statement in international soccer was during the last Gold Cup, when they reached the quarters after an upset of Trinidad and Tobago.

They also owe their place in this year’s tournament to Trinidad, after they improbably defeated them 3-2 away when they were down 2-0 in the second half!

Martinique come into this tournament with three consecutive friendly losses, including a recent 3-0 decision against the U-23 version of… yep… you guessed it, Trinidad and Tobago.

With a squad of mainly domestic players - they have some French Ligue 1 players in their reserve - it’s hard to imagine another quarterfinal appearance this time round. Prediction: 3rd.

Group D: Costa Rica, Canada, Cuba. Based in Foxboro.


Devious Steve is back!

Steve Sampson’s tenure as head Tico has so far been fairly smooth. He guided them to a relatively comfortable win in the UNCAF Cup to qualify them for this tournament, but the scorelines by which Costa Rica triumphed were predominately 1-0 decisions, prompting some grumbling that the team wasn’t creating and putting away enough offensive chances.

For Sampson, a successful Gold Cup could eliminate that criticism and ensure that he is the coach to guide the Tico’s through the start of the World Cup campaign.

Success for Costa Rica requires a comfortable group win, and with a veteran squad of the likes of Fonseca, Lopez, Wright, Centeno, Solis and Parks, they should have the talent to finish on top of Group D.

However, if this does happen, we may not see the much-anticipated Sampson vs. Arena matchup; Costa Rica will be shunted off to the other side of the draw, on a fast track for a semi-final trip to the Azteca, almost certainly to face you-know-who. Prediction: 1st.


Two Gold Cups ago, Canada stunned the world… er, I mean the continent… er, I mean certain suburbs of Vancouver by their tremendous tournament victory.

But that was last century, and coach Holger Osicek hasn’t had a lot to show for his efforts since then. He’ll be keen to produce another deep Gold Cup run here in order to prepare the Canucks for the true prize: qualifying for the 2006 World Cup.

They’ve had an ambitious, but mostly unsuccessful, series of overseas friendlies earlier this year, including losses in Germany and Estonia, and it will be interesting to see how prepared this leaves them for CONCACAF opponents.

No real surprises on the Canadian roster, unless you’re the sort of wide-eyed innocent who’s shocked by the omitting of Tomas Radzinski.

Once again, this Canadian team will defend resolutely but find it hard to score goals, unless Carlos Corrazin still has a bit of Gold Cup magic left. Prediction: 2nd.


It’s always pretty difficult to run the form book on Cuba; apparently my application for Cuban soccer press credentials didn’t go through or something.

But Cuba have produced some decent friendly results against other Caribbean teams over the past year, beating Trinidad, the Dominican Republic, and, most impressively, Jamaica twice, including a 2-1 victory over the Boyz in Kingston this week.

Cuban teams tend to be organized, but lack the international pedigree needed to succeed, and against ambitious squads from Costa Rica and Canada, could well be up against it. Prediction: 3rd.

Free the banana cream 3!

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