Chris O (follow on Twitter: @COakleyFtbl)
Sun 17 June 2007

CONCACAF Gold Cup 2007 Update

Owing to the frequent references to Guadeloupe on many recent posts (and we have Chris 'B Squad' to thank for that), I thought it wise to put them into context by giving you an update on the 2007 CONCACAF Gold Cup.

Group A

This year's tournament for North and Central American countries is being held in the United States (as it almost always has been since 1991) and was kicked off on June 6th with the first two games of Group A; Costa Rica v Canada and Guadeloupe v Haiti.

Both games were played at Miami's Orange Bowl and in the first Canada earned a shock 2-1 win over last year's World Cup finalists thanks to two goals from Julian Deguzman after Walter Centeno had put the Costa Rican's in front on 56 minutes.

The following match saw Guadeloupe - now adopted as SPAOTP's favourite non-FIFA-registered team - pick up their first ever Gold Cup point with a 1-1 draw against Haiti. Cedrick Fiston was the man who put his name in the record books as the Guadeloupeans' first Gold Cup scorer after Mones Chery had put Haiti in front with a penalty in the first half.

Three days later, Guadeloupe were to out-shock Canada who had hoped to secure qualification through to the quarter-finals with a second win. The Caribbean side took the lead on 10 minutes when captain Jocelyn Angloma (one-time winger for France in the 1990's) chipped Canadian keeper Greg Sutton from 35 yards out.

Canada equalised in the 31st minute when Ali Gerba despatched an easy chance but Gaudeloupe were not to be beaten and six minutes later David Fleurival restored the lead at 2-1. The Canadians were left reeling and despite much pressure for the rest of the match it was Guadeloupe who all but secured their quarter-final place.

Later on June 9th, Costa Rica met Haiti, neither of whom had won their first match but as it turned out neither were to win this one either. In an intense and physcial match, the far more experienced Costa Ricans finally took the lead when Walter Centeno got his second of the tournament on 62 minutes but Haiti pulled one back nine minutes later through Boucicaut and that's the way it ended - 1-1.

Costa Rica were looking at an early flight home having gained just one point from a possible six and had to beat Guadeloupe in their final game to stand any chance of reaching the quarter-finals. When they met on June 11th, the Costa Ricans were in luck. That man Walter Centeno scored again in the thirteenth minute and it proved to be the only goal of the match.

With Guadeloupe now wondering if they'd qualify, all eyes turned to the last game of the group as Canada took on Haiti. The islanders had to win if they were to go through to the next round while Canada were looking for at least a draw. In a dull game, it was the Canadians who cruised to victory thanks to a Dwayne De Rosario brace in the 30th and 35th minutes and with that Haiti were out of the competition.

Canada had secured top spot in the group with six points but Costa Rica snatched second on goal difference ahead of Guadeloupe. In this year's Gold Cup, only two of the three third-placed teams would go through. Would Guadeloupe be one of them?

Group B

Group B was seen as the strongest of all three groups and so it proved to be as the United States began proceedings on June 7th with a nervy 1-0 win over Guatemala in Los Angeles. Clint Dempsey scored from close range to get the only goal of the game enabling the hosts to carry on from where they left off at the end of the 2005 tournament which they won.

Later in the day, Trinidad and Tobago (finalists at the 2006 World Cup) were given the dubious task of beating a strengthening El Salvador team at the Home Center Depot. Despite a well-taken early free kick from Silvio Spann to put T&T in front, El Salvador battled back with a goal near the end of each half from Ramon Sanchez and Dennis Alas to win the tie 2-1.

Next for El Salvador was a match against beaten Guatemala on June 9th. In an aggressive encounter, the form book was thrown out the window as Jose Contreras struck with a 69th minute volley to put both teams level on three points in the group. Not necessarily good news for El Salvador whose last game was to be against the United States...

The hosts had no such worries as they faced an unsettled Trinidad and Tobago team later in the day. A win would send them through to the quarter-finals and almost certainly end their opponents' chance of doing the same.

This time the form book did account for something. In front of a sell-out crowd, a much-changed American team cruised past the weak Trinidadians thanks to a 29th minute tap-in from Brian Ching and a 54th minute tap-in from Eddie Johnson. It was all too easy for the USA, though arguably not for their 'keeper Kasey Keller who struggled to find something to do for much of the match.

Despite knowing they'd qualified for the next round, the hosts didn't take their foot off the gas for their final group game against El Salvador. Goals rained in on the Salvadorian goal and more were avoided only because of the woodwork as DaMarcus Beasley scored two and Landon Donovan and Taylor Twellman picked up a goal each. The USA deservedly finished up group winners with a 4-0 win which only left one question remaining: Could anyone stop the Americans winning this tournament?

Meanwhile, Guatemala were in the fortunate position of knowing that a point against Trinidad and Tobago would be enough to take second place in the group. In a tough-fought battle, Guatemala gained an early advantage as Trinidad had Dwayne Jack sent off for violent conduct after 29 minutes.

Guatemala should have been in the ascendancy but struggled to overcome their awkward opponents until Carlos Ruiz finished off a well-worked move to give his side the lead in the 83rd minute. Even then, however, it wasn't 'game over' as just two minutes later Errol McFarlane rose to head home a high ball into the penalty area which ensued the game would finish a draw, 1-1.

The result was good enough for Guatemala who joined the USA in the quarter finals, but for third-placed El Salvador and last-placed Trinidad and Tobago there would be no such silver lining. Group B was said to be tough at the start, and the experts had been proved right.

Group C

June 8th saw the start of play in Group C and in the first game Panama put in a spirited performance to beat Honduras 3-2 while the second match at the Giants Stadium, New Jersey, saw Mexico win 2-1 having been a goal down against Cuba.

Reynier Alcantara smashed the ball past Mexican goalkeeper
Guillermo Ochoa in the 22nd minute but just when Hugo Sanchez's first game in charge as coach was starting to look like an embarrassing one, Jared Borgetti equalised with a header sixteen minutes later.

Eleven minutes into the second half, Mexico took the lead when
Nery Castillo followed up to put the ball in after a shot from Jose Fonseca was spilled by the 'keeper. Cuba had to little to offer by way of a comeback and could have even have conceded a third late on but the score remained 2-1 to Mexico.

Two days later, a tournament which was already getting a reputation for throwing up surprises created another when Mexico lost 2-1 to Honduras. Blanco scored from a penalty to put the Mexicans 1-0 up after 29 minutes and everything seemed to be going according to plan for the rest of the half, but Honduras came out a different side for the second.

In the 57th minute, Carlo Costly, currently playing his club football in Poland, scored an equaliser and at the end of normal time he added a second to hand Mexico a rare Gold Cup defeat to leave both teams on three points from two matches.

Later in the day, Panama continued their unbeaten run with a 2-2 draw against a much-improved Cuba side to leave the group wide open going into the final round of games on June 13th.

The action for the last two Group C games switched to the Reliant Stadium, Houston where Cuba, almost certainly without a chance of qualifying for the quarter-finals faced a Honduras side playing in front of many of their own fans.

It was to be a retched night for the Cubans as Carlos Pavon went goal-crazy for Honduras. He scored in the 3rd, 12th, 42nd and 53rd minute to become only the third player ever to score four goals in a Gold Cup match and to make matters worse Amado Guevara added a fifth in the 90th minute to seal a 5-0 victory for the Hondurans.

They could rest safe in the knowledge that they'd secured at least second spot in the group but if Mexico avoided defeat against Panama, they'd finish top.

The Mexicans dominated the first half but couldn't find a goal thanks to some largely wayward shooting but on the hour mark Carlos Salcido headed in from a corner and the deadlock was broken. Panama fought back desperately looking for an equaliser but none came. Mexico won by a single goal and that was enough to take second place in the group on goal difference behind Honduras. For Panama, they had the satisfaction of being one of the best third-placed teams so they, too, entered the quarter finals.

Quarter-Finals

Well the action began yesterday in explosive style as Canada won their game against Guatemala 3-0. Some familiar faces ended up on the scoresheet as the Canadians proved too powerful for a static Guatemalan side. Dwayne De Rosario opened the scoring in the 17th minute by tapping in a shot from Ali Gerba, but it was then Gerba himself who added two of his own in the 33rd and 44th minutes. Canada wound down the clock in the second half, making sure of their first semi-final appearance in the Gold Cup since 2002.

In the second quarter-final, the USA struggled to overcome Panama but they gained advantage in the 60th minute when Landon Donovan was hauled down by Carlos Rivera who converted the resulting penalty.

Two minutes later, Carlos Bocanegra doubled the lead when he scored from a DaMarcus Beasley free kick and the game was all but over despite a Blas Perez pulling a goal back late on for Panama.

So the USA earn their place in the semi-finals where they'll play Canada in what looks to be a mouth-watering tie. The remaining two quarter-finals are due to take place later today (June 17th) where Mexico will face Costa Rica and Honduras take on the minnows from Guadeloupe.

If you're waiting for some predictions from me, I'm afraid you won't get any. I've already come to the conclusion that this exciting tournament has been anything but predictable, so it's probably best to just sit back and watch the action unfold.

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