Hosts Costa Rica won a record extending seventh Copa Centroamericana title in the nation’s capital of San José on Sunday when defeating defending champions Honduras.
Costa Rica reached the final in fine style, winning two and drawing one of their three matches in the group stages, going on to defeat El Salvador 1-0 in the semi-final. Honduras’ route to the final was more laboured in comparison. Although they topped their group it was due to goals scored as all three teams in their group had the same number of points due to each game ending as a draw. In the semi-finals Honduras also needed just a solitary goal to progress thanks to Brayan Beckeles’ goal in the 67th minute of the game against Belize. The final would also prove just as tight with just a solitary strike from Giancarlo González in the 37th minute deciding the game in Costa Rica’s favour, giving los Ticos their first tournament win since 2007.
The Copa Centroamericana also doubled out as a qualifying tournament for the CONCACAF Gold Cup, which takes place in July this year in the United States, with the best performing five teams progressing through. As well as the two finalists, losing semi-finalists Belize and El Salvador qualified along with Panama who defeated Guatemala 3-1 in the 5th/6th place play-off match last Friday.
COSTA RICA 1-0 HONDURAS GOAL AND TROPHY PRESENTATION
Mexico came from two goals down to defeat tournament hosts United States 4-2 in a pulsating 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup final in the Pasadena Rose Bowl on Saturday. After Michael Bradley and Landon Donovan had given the home side a two goal lead after just 23 minutes the Mexicans bounced back in fine fashion, restoring parity in the first half before taking command of the game in the second period.
After Mexico had beaten the Americans by a thumping 5-0 score line in the 2009 Gold Cup final, the United States were not only determined to avoid a repeat but also hoped to claim the Gold Cup title for the first time in four years. Mexico, on the other hand, had a sixth Gold Cup title in mind and a second consecutive title on Saturday would prove to be a perfect confidence booster ahead of their Copa America challenge which begins in Argentina on July 1st. An expectant crowd of 93,000, most of whom came from the vast Hispanic community in the United States and were supporting Mexico, were surprised to see the hosts take a quick-fire two goal lead. Michael Bradley headed home after just eight minutes to give the USA a perfect start which was followed up by a neat finish from captain Donovan in an opening 25 minutes in which the visitors were stunned to be two goals down so early. However Pablo Barrera and Andrés Guardado were on hand to help Mexico go in at the break tied at 2-2 and a fascinating second half awaited all of those privileged to be in the stadium.
The second half was every bit as open as the first half with both teams determined to go forward and with very few fouls littering the game. It didn’t take long for the Mexicans to finally grab a stranglehold of the game after Barrera scored his second to give his team the lead for the first time in the match. The game was settled with a little under quarter of an hour left to play after Giovani Dos Santos scored the most wonderful winning goal, evading the challenges of a number of defenders in the box and chipping the ball into Tim Howard’s top left-hand corner. The two goal margin proved difficult for the Americans to pull back although, to their credit, they did have a couple of attempts late on but it wasn’t to be yet again for the Stars and Stripes. Mexico’s Javier Hernández won the Most Valuable Player (MVP) award despite not adding to the seven goals he’d already chalked up in the tournament.
Mexico’s reward for winning the Gold Cup is a place in the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup tournament in Brazil.
CONCACAF Gold Cup tournament hosts the United States have got their campaign back on track following a rocky group phase. The Americans sealed a place in the semi-finals of the competition after defeating previously unbeaten Jamaica by two goals to nil in the last eight. The other quarter-finals saw tournament favourites Mexico come from behind to get the better of Guatemala whilst penalty shoot outs prevailed in the other two matches with Honduras and Panama coming out on top against Costa Rica and El Salvador respectively.
The USA needed to give their home supporters something to shout about after a mixed bag of performances in the group stage. This time the Americans secured their semi-final spot with a win against a Jamaica side who had won all of their three games in the group phase. Their quarter-final match-up was always going to be a tight affair but once Jermaine Jones had given the Stars and Stripes the lead in somewhat fortunate fashion after 49 minutes then there was no looking back for the hosts. Clint Dempsey scored his second goal of the tournament with just ten minutes remaining, thus depriving the spirited Jamaicans of further progression. However the Reggae Boyz can be proud of their earlier performances and the CFU Caribbean Cup holders have promise for the future.
WATCH UNITED STATES v JAMAICA GOALS HERE:
Javier Hernández is looking like the man who could (almost) single-handedly win Mexico the tournament after scoring his sixth goal of the tournament in his side’s 2-1 victory over Guatemala. What made the victory all the more sweeter for the Mexicans was that they showed their ability to come back following a shock 5th minute opening goal from Carlos Ruiz which had given Guatemala the lead. After Aldo de Nigris had equalized for Mexico just three minutes after the break, it was up to Hernández to supply the winning goal midway through the second half and the 2-1 lead was one that the Mexicans failed to relinquish. It is clear to see that the Manchester United star has kept up his prolific streak in front of goal following a successful first season at Old Trafford and there are many who believe that he will prove the difference between success and failure for his national team.
The other two quarter-finals proved to be tighter affairs with extra-time and penalties required to separate the teams in both matches. There was late drama in the game involving Panama and El Salvador with the latter going ahead twelve minutes before full time thanks to a Rodolfo Zelaya penalty but parity was restored in the dying seconds of the game in highly contentious fashion. Panama’s Luis Tejada’s header from close range was adjudged to have crossed the line and this decision ensured his team’s second consecutive 1-1 draw, the previous one coming against Canada in their final group phase match which helped eliminate the Canucks from the tournament. The same player helped score Panama’s final penalty in the shoot out to secure a 5-3 win and a place in the semi-finals against the Americans who will be seeking revenge for defeat in the group phase.
WATCH PANAMA v EL SALVADOR GOALS HERE:
The final match saw Honduras go toe-to-toe with Costa Rica and, after a goalless first half, saw the only goals of the game scored early after the break. Jerry Bengtson helped Honduras take the lead in the 49th minute only for Denis Marshal to equalize for Costa Rica just seven minutes later. In the penalty shoot out that followed the end of the game it was to be Bengtson who would stamp his mark on the outcome by scoring the goal which clinched Honduras’ place in the semi-finals where they’ll face off against Mexico.
The 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup has reached the knockout rounds, which will begin this Saturday, following the group stages which came to a close last night.
Defending champions Mexico came through Group A with a 100% record and have firmly stamped themselves as the tournament favourites having easily overcome the challenges of group rivals Costa Rica (5-0), El Salvador (4-1) and Cuba (5-0). Manchester United striker Javier Hernandez is the current tournament top scorer with five goals as he continues the great form which saw him lift a league title medal in England this season. Costa Rica and El Salvador tied on four points but the former’s superior goal difference saw them go through automatically to the last eight whilst the latter had to see how the third place finishers in the other groups fared.
WATCH CUBA v MEXICO HIGHLIGHTS HERE:
CFU Caribbean Cup winners Jamaica also progressed with a 100% record, scoring seven goals without reply in Group B. They had it easy against Grenada (4-0) but were made to work that little bit harder in their other victories against Guatemala (2-0) and Honduras (1-0). Just like in Group A, the teams that finished in second and third were tied on four points so it came down to goal difference to separate Honduras (+5) from Guatemala (+2) with the latter still in with a possibility of qualifying with one of the two best third-placed records.
Group C saw a shock when Panama saw off tournament hosts the United States to first place in the group. This was helped in no small part to the former’s 2-1 victory over the latter in their second group match although Panama only officially clinched top spot after a stoppage time equalizer in their final group game against Canada last night salvaged a 1-1 draw. The point saw Panama (7pts) finish one point ahead of the United States who, in turn, were two points clear of Canada, whose dream of a quarter-final place was dashed following that last-gasp equalizer. Canada had the worst record out of those teams finishing in third place and were eliminated. Guadeloupe came bottom of the group but were far from disgraced losing by just a single goal in all three games.
WATCH CANADA v PANAMA HIGHLIGHTS HERE:
The most intriguing quarter-final match-up sees the USA face off against Jamaica with a place in the semi-finals by no means assured for the hosts. In the other games Mexico are expected to seal a spot in the final four following their game against Guatemala, Panama are favourites to see off El Salvador in their tie whilst the game between Honduras and Costa Rica could be amongst the tightest in this year’s competition.
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.