CONCACAF: 2011 Gold Cup Preview
The latest edition of the CONCACAF Gold Cup, the top tournament for national teams in the North and Central America region, begins on June 5th with the United States hosting the event for the tenth time. Mexico are the defending champions having thrashed the United States in the 2009 final by five goals to nil and this year’s host nation would like to make up for that setback. Stoppage Time – International Football Blog previews all of the teams involved in the tournament which finishes on June 25th in the Rose Bowl, Pasadena.
GROUP A (Costa Rica, Cuba, El Salvador, Mexico)
COSTA RICA (FIFA World Ranking 53) are making their tenth appearance in the CONCACAF Gold Cup having qualified thanks to a second place finish in the 2011 Copa Centroamericana. Los Ticos have never won this competition, their tournament best coming in the 2002 event in which they lost 2-0 to the United States in the final. Costa Rica should expect to progress to the knock-out stages but a tournament win may prove beyond them yet again.
CUBA (113) qualified for their sixth Gold Cup after finishing third in the 2010 CFU Caribbean Championship. Their best performance in this tournament came in 2003 where they lost out to a rampant United States at the quarter-final going down 5-0 with Landon Donovan hitting the net four times for the Americans. If they perform well then a quarter-final place is a possibility but expect them to go no further.
EL SALVADOR (110) finished in 4th place in the 2011 Copa Centroamericana which gained them a place in their seventh tournament finals. El Salvador reached the quarter-finals in successive Gold Cups in 2002 and 2003 going out to the United States and Costa Rica respectively and have yet to reach the last four. Expect them not to reach the semi-finals again this time too although they will fight out with Cuba for a quarter-final spot.
MEXICO (28) are the defending champions having defeated the United States 5-0 in the 2009 final. This is Mexico’s eleventh appearance in the finals and they have high hopes of adding to their haul of five tournament wins this time. Mexico may be placed ten places lower than arch-rivals United States in the current FIFA World Rankings but they often save their best performances for big tournaments. Expect to see them in the final once again.
GROUP B (Grenada, Guatemala, Honduras, Jamaica)
GRENADA (128) are the rank outsiders in this year’s tournament having qualified for only the second time ever after finishing in fourth place of the 2010 CFU Caribbean Championship. Their one and only appearance to date came in 2009 where they failed to get past the first round, finishing bottom of their group containing the United States, Honduras and Haiti. Expect them not to progress beyond the group stage this time too.
GUATEMALA (115) have yet to better the fourth place they achieved in the 1996 edition of the Gold Cup. Having finished fifth in the 2011 Copa Centroamericana, and thus gaining the last spot in this year’s Gold Cup tournament, the Guatemalans will hope to squeeze into the quarter-finals with one of the best third-place records. Should they shock the form guide and defeat either Jamaica or Honduras in the group stage then a top two place could be viable. A quarter-finalist at best.
HONDURAS (52) are the best ranked nation in the CONCACAF region outside of the big two (Mexico & United States) and are appearing in their tenth tournament finals. The 2011 Copa Centroamericana champions have only ever reached a Gold Cup final on one occasion and were unfortunate to lose out to the Americans in a penalty shoot-out following a goalless final. They have the potential to top their group and could go all the way to the final should they have a good day against expected semi-finalists United States.
JAMAICA (76) won the 2010 CFU Caribbean Championship and will be competing in the CONCACAF Gold Cup for the eighth time. Their tournament best came in 1993 when they came third and they also gained a fourth place finish five years later but since then the Jamaicans have failed to get past the quarter-finals. The last eight is the target once again but a place in the semi-finals may just be a little optimistic.
GROUP C (Canada, Guadeloupe, Panama, United States)
CANADA (88) are participating in their tenth Gold Cup tournament and will hope to equal their 2009 showing by reaching the last eight. Canada is a one-time champion of this tournament having surprised everybody by beating guest nation Colombia in the 2000 final but a repeat of this victory looks out of reach this year. Will be fighting it out with Panama for second in the group.
GUADELOUPE (No ranking available) have improved in recent years having finished third in the 2007 Gold Cup tournament and having qualified for their third tournament finals by narrowly losing to Jamaica in the 2010 CFU Caribbean Championship final. However any hopes that Guadeloupe have of progressing beyond the group stage have been hampered by a tough draw and not even a third place finish looks likely this time out.
PANAMA (70) qualified for their fifth tournament finals by finishing in a respectable third place in the 2011 Copa Centroamericana. Their tournament best came in 2005 when they were unlucky to lose out in a penalty shoot-out to eventual champions the United States, the same nation that knocked Panama out of the last tournament in 2009 at the quarter-final stage. A place in the last eight of the competition is likely this time too but they’ll need plenty of luck if they’re to qualify for their second final.
UNITED STATES (18) are the slight favourites going into this year’s CONCAF Gold Cup. As tournament hosts the Americans will hope that their eleventh appearance in the competition will see them equal Mexico’s record of five tournament victories. The USA were embarrassed by Mexico in the 2009 final and they have a chance to get their own back should both teams reach the final as expected this time out.