World Cup Preview: 2014 Elementary Round, Matchday 6
Posted on November 14, 2011 8:04 pm
Hello, everyone! And welcome to the last matchday in the elementary round, where everything’s settled and the points don’t matter. That’s right, just like América since Cuau left.*
Thanks to Guyana’s and Antigua and Barbuda’s monumental victories on Friday, all the available spots in the semifinal round have already been decided. But there is still plenty at stake in the pride department: four of the group winners will shoot for a perfect record, the three Caribbean top seeds will try to save face, and the rest will look to improve their FIFA ranking and finish in a higher-than-expected position in their respective groups.
Here is the schedule for the last World Cup qualifiers of 2011 for our region – and you might as well enjoy them, since the semifinal round won’t kick off until June of next year. As always, the home team and group are listed first (all times EST).
Monday, November 14:
B – Barbados vs. Bermuda, 7:00 p.m.
D – Puerto Rico vs. St. Lucia, 7:00 p.m.
A – Cayman Islands vs. Dominican Republic, 7:30 p.m.
Tuesday, November 15:
E – Grenada vs. Guatemala, 2:00 p.m.
E – St. Vincent and the Grenadines vs. Belize, 2:00 p.m.
F – Haiti vs. Antigua and Barbuda, 3:00 p.m.
B – Trinidad and Tobago vs. Guyana, 4:00 p.m.
D – Canada vs. St. Kitts and Nevis, 7:00 p.m.
F – Curaçao vs. US Virgin Islands, 7:00 p.m.
C – Panama vs. Dominica, 8:00 p.m.
A – El Salvador vs. Suriname, 8:30 p.m.
For tonight’s games, Puerto Rico’s match against St. Lucia will be broadcast on Futbolboricua TV. Tomorrow, either Canal 3 or Canal 11 in Guatemala will show their match against Grenada, while St. Vincent’s NBC Radio should cover the other match in Group E. An hour after, both Total Mix Radio and Radio Galaxie should broadcast Haiti’s public (verbal) flogging, while i95.5 fm will do the same for Trinidad and Tobago’s curtain-closer. Later, Rogers Sportsnet One will carry Canada’s match against St. Kitts, and both TV Max and RPC TV will show Panama’s second World Cup match in the Estadio Rommel Fernandez in three times as many years. Finally, El Salvador’s match with Suriname will be shown on the local Canal 4.
Nicaragua is idle on this matchday, but their point has already been made: although the pinoleros could not survive the elementary round, they proved that their appearance in the 2009 Gold Cup was no fluke, defying their lower seeding with two victories over Dominica. A few more teams have the chance to do the same: Bermuda could conceivably finish in second place in Group B, should they defeat Barbados tonight and Trinidad slip a second time against Guyana. And while Puerto Rico could not muster a single win against higher-ranked opposition, a win over St. Lucia will allow them to finish second in Group D, unless St. Kitts manage to pull off a major upset in Toronto. For their part, Belize still have a chance to finish in second in Group B, but they will need to win at St. Vincent and hope Grenada finish winless at home.
As for the teams that were expected to hold serve in this round, Trinidad and Haiti will attempt to save face in front of a hostile, frustrated home crowd. Just the prospect of facing the music in Port-au-Prince caused former coach Edson Tavares to “jump ship”; and since he is nowhere to be found (at least, he did not return to Haiti with the team), Carlo Marcelin will take over for the last game. Mind you, the last time he coached Haiti he left them in jeopardy of failing to reach the Caribbean Cup finals, so optimism is justifiably muted. And while Canada did manage to survive, they will face the similar task of reassuring the home fans by ending their goalless streak…they hope.
No fewer than four group winners have a chance to finish the elementary round with a perfect record, and I decided to give this week’s honors to the final match of one of them because 1) I had not done so for a previous game in that group and 2) three teams will be affected by the result.
MATCH OF THE ROUND
However this encounter turns out, El Salvador are already guaranteed to move on and tussle with Mexico, Costa Rica and Guyana next year, while Suriname will only have qualifying for the next Caribbean Cup on their minds. But while maintaining a perfect record is the only motivation for the cuscatlecos, Suriname may need a result in order to avoid an embarrassing finish in Group A.
The South Americans currently find themselves in third place, looking up at none other than the Dominican Republic – a country that had to survive the first round of qualifying just to get to this point. The bachata boyz are only ahead on goal differential, as the two nations are tied on 7 points; Suriname, then, will need to achieve above and beyond whatever the Dominicans accomplish at the Cayman Islands in order to retake second and finish with their heads held high. That the Dominican Republic, Bermuda and Belize – the lowest seeds in their respective groups, the ones expected to prop up the table – all have a chance to finish in second speaks to the growing competitiveness among the lower-tier teams in CONCACAF, and one hopes their improvement continues in the upcoming regional championships (Caribbean Cup 2012 and Copa Centroamericana 2013).
On an unrelated topic, but not big enough for its own entry: Monterrey’s general manager, Luis Miguel Salvador, echoed the complaints of coach Victor Manuel Vucetich about the shadowy nature of the knockout-round draw in the current CONCACAF Champions League. According to Salvador, Monterrey offered a set of CCL-related suggestions to CONCACAF back in May with the strong support of the other participating clubs, only for CONCACAF to effectively table the proposal.
While I appreciate Salvador’s initiative, the main target of his and Vucetich’s ire – the fact that Monterrey will have to face fellow Mexican side Morelia in the quarterfinals – betrays a clear lack of understanding of how the competition works. Salvador believes that CONCACAF set this up in order to “eliminate teams from the same country, one way or another.” My feelings on this are well-documented (unlike, say, the actual thought process behind the draw); but in this specific case, it was inevitable.
Morelia finished in 2nd place in Group A, so they could not play any of the other runners-up in the quarterfinals. And they emerged from the same group as the LA Galaxy, so they could not have a rematch in the very next stage. What options did that leave for Morelia? The other group winners: Santos Laguna, Pumas and Monterrey. If Salvador wants to complain about the fact that his team drew the short straw, that’s one thing, but an all-Mexican showdown was bound to happen.
* I was going to go with New York, but 1) the Red Bulls have received more than enough beatings on BigSoccer’s front page and 2) at least they’ve been to the CCL.