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FIFA: Guyana on a Roll

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Guyana on a roll


When one thinks of perennial powers in the CONCACAF region, names like Mexico and the United States - even new boys Costa Rica - begin to roll from the tongue. Honduras, Jamaica, Guatemala and Trinidad & Tobago are also national teams with some claims to improved status over the years and, in most conversations, go a long way to eclipsing Guyana in terms of footballing prowess. But now football fans in the country currently have something massive to shout about as their team is undergoing an astonishing upswing in footballing fortunes.

The tropical nation is every inch an outsider in North, Central America and the Caribbean. For one reason, it falls geographically outside of the region, occupying the extreme north east corner of South America.

The tiny former Dutch and British Colony with a population of just over 700,000 has not lost a match in over two years, and, on Wednesday, extended their unbeaten run to an amazing 14 games. The smallest nation on mainland South America and one which shares far more, culturally speaking, with the Caribbean than its host continent, have put together a side to be proud of and are in the throes of a wondrous revival.

In a stretch of 14 matches, the team - coached by Jamaal Shabazz (who also incidentally holds the reins the country's women's national team) - have not lost a game since their ill-fated FIFA World Cup™ qualifying run in 2004 where they lost 8-1 on aggregate over two legs to Grenada with suspensions and injuries affecting the side hard. Yet, in the space of two years the side has undergone a remarkable transformation.

Caribbean Cup shockers

Currently hosting one of three second round groups of the Caribbean Cup, which acts as the sub-region's preliminary qualifying tournament for next year's CONCACAF Gold Cup, Guyana have kept their impressive run of wins alive.

Antigua & Barbuda were first to suffer in the second round, after Guyana finished the first round with a perfect nine points, seven goals scored and zero conceded in three games, with a thumping 6-0 defeat on the day. Goals from Randolph Jerome - who is considered the nation's best player and Gregory Richardson led the way for the green-clad warriors and brought their undefeated streak in international competition to 12. In their second match, they roared to a tense 3-2 win over Guadalupe.

In first place with six points - three ahead of Guadalupe and the Dominican Republic - Guyana's final group game came on 28 November against a sharp-looking Dominican squad. But true to recent form, Guyana recorded a 4-0 win to finish top of the group, bringing their unbeaten run to 14 and qualifying for final Caribbean qualifying round in Trinidad & Tobago in January.

Their incredible recent run has seen the side jump to a best-ever 105th in the FIFA/Coca-Cola world ranking - a boost of nearly 60 spots since 2004 and just three behind Central American powers Guatemala. And if they can keep their form up they just might find themselves playing in their first-ever CONCACAF Gold Cup next year.

Four teams from the final field of eight Caribbean participants in T&T at the start of 2007 will book their passage to the 2007 Gold Cup in the USA, and Guyana - currently untouchable and brimming with confidence - will be keen to prove their current renaissance with a place at the big table.

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