Gold Cup 2011 Wrap-Up

Posted on June 26, 2011 2:47 am

Al grito de guerra, Mexico overturned an early 2-0 deficit to win tonight’s Gold Cup final 4-2 at “home” in the Rose Bowl. The aztecas had cooled off after scoring goals at will in the group stage, with Guatemala and Honduras forcing them to sweat out wins in the knockout round. But against their archrival Mexico brought their best performance of the tournament, with game MVP Giovani dos Santos tormenting a makeshift US defensive line time and again and Pablo Barrera scoring his second and third goals of the tournament at the most opportune time.

In particular I have to mention Gio’s goal, the last one of the match: if you have not seen it, go to youtube or CONCACAF’s website and watch it. That has to be the Goal of the Tournament, with Andres Guardado’s blast against Costa Rica in 2nd and either Jozy Altidore’s goal against Guadeloupe or Keammar Daley’s against Grenada in 3rd. As for the Tournament’s Golden Boot and MVP winner Javier Hernandez, while he did not find the scoresheet tonight, “Chicharito” has clearly established himself as the best forward in the entire region. And Aldo de Nigris did not get to see the field (Monterrey team-mate Jesus Zavala was the last sub), but he must feel good about getting two continental winner’s medals in the same year.

So congratulations to the 2011 Gold Cup winners (and Fair Play Award winners, no less), who will now join Brazil, Spain, Japan and the other continental champions at the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup in Brazil. Here’s how el Tri got there…

Mexico

Qualification: Automatic

Gold Cup 2011 Group A:

5-0 vs. El Salvador
5-0 vs. Cuba
4-1 vs. Costa Rica

Finish: 1st place, 9 points

Quarterfinals:

2-1 vs. Guatemala

Semifinals:

2-0 vs. Honduras a.e.t.

Final:

4-2 vs. USA

And to finish up my coverage of the Gold Cup here on the Regional Review (until the Caribbean Cup kicks off next year), a few words on the other participants.

Cuba – The only positive thing I can say about their Gold Cup run is that at least they didn’t “lose” Roberto Linares along the way. But this team has regressed sharply from the one that took third place in the last Caribbean Cup – believe it or not, they managed to beat Panama 3-0 in Panama in a friendly soon afterwards – and the leones del Caribe humiliated themselves in this Gold Cup. At least they have a year to figure out how to fix things, probably starting with finding a replacement for coach Raul Gonzalez; otherwise, their World Cup qualifying adventure will be quick and painful.

Grenada – In the first 20 minutes against Honduras and the second half against Guatemala, their offense showed glimpses of the potential that the Spice Boyz have to offer. And fellow Caribbean sides can’t sniff at their having qualified for back-to-back Gold Cups. But the midfield hardly managed to maintain possession in their games, and the defense was nothing short of shambolic. It is important to note, though, that Grenada have a top seed in the Elementary round, giving them a good chance of a manageable group and a possible appearance in the semifinal round. Coach Mike Adams (or whoever succeeds him) should sort out the problems between the “village players” and the pros soon, or Grenada could blow a golden opportunity in the next World Cup.

Guadeloupe – This team underwhelmed rather than embarrassed themselves. Still, an aging group has had an impressive run during the last three Gold Cups, taking quite a few scalps in 2007 and ’09 and having only received 4 goals in 3 games against Mexico and the United States. And with the Guadeloupe u-20s having made it to the most recent CONCACAF u-20 championship and only barely losing to Canada, there is hope that this generation can be replaced – at least, that is much more likely to happen than Stephane Auvray’s dream of Guadeloupe being allowed to participate in World Cup qualifying coming true anytime soon.

Canada – Their performance was a disappointment in comparison with what they accomplished at the last two Gold Cups. They should be thankful that they get to play in the Elementary round of qualifying, so that their midfield and forward line can figure out how to create and score goals in the run of play.

Jamaica – They picked the worst time to have a clunker, up against the US in the quarterfinals. Their group stage performance, however, should have Theodore Whitmore’s side brimming with confidence going into qualifying next year; they have all the necessary tools to qualify for the World Cup finals. On top of that, they are odds-on favorites to win a third-straight Caribbean championship.

Guatemala – Ever Hugo Almeida’s side performed well above expectations in this tournament. Woe betide whichever top seed draws them in the Elementary round.

El Salvador – Leaving aside the horror second half against Mexico, Ruben Israel’s team can feel satisfied with their performance in this tournament. Their matches with Costa Rica and Panama, in particular, suggest that they will breeze through the Elementary Round (where their opponents will look a lot like Cuba, only worse) and will threaten whoever they meet in the Semifinal round of qualifying.

Costa Rica – Unfortunately, their game against El Salvador was a truer reflection of the ticos’ current level than their romp over Cuba. Too many important players failed to show up in the biggest moments (Bolanos, Saborio and Ruiz, to name a few); and unless they show up in better form a year from now, LaVolpe’s going to have to place his trust in Joel Campbell’s generation if Costa Rica is to survive the Semfinal round of qualifying.

Honduras – Their performance against Mexico gave me hope that the next generation can get by without the contribution of icons such as Carlos Pavon and Amado Guevara. But their performances against everyone else (save Grenada) made me seriously doubt their ability to qualify for the next World Cup finals.

Panama – Their offense needs work on consistently creating and finishing goalscoring opportunities, but their historic run in this Gold Cup should fill the canaleros with confidence heading into World Cup qualifying. If FEPAFUT lets Julio Dely Valdes do his job, and with a bit of luck, Panama could very well make a debutant appearance at the next World Cup Finals. By the way, for my money Jaime Penedo was the best goalkeeper in the tournament.

United States – The Americans are, for better or worse, a known quantity now in CONCACAF, and as long as Bob Bradley is coach they will remain that way. Fortunately, World Cup qualifying in CONCACAF is forgiving enough that we can skate by on current form; but if we want to aspire to anything higher than Round-of-16 finishes at the World Cup, the status quo is simply not going to get us there.

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