Gold Cup Qualifiers: Like It Or Not

Posted on October 23, 2012 3:10 am

CONCACAF’s representative for the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup has already been determined. The 2011 Gold Cup finished with Mexico claiming the honor via a comprehensive 4-2 victory over the United States in the Rose Bowl. And yet, this week we will begin covering the qualifying process for the 2013 edition of our continental championship – the off-beat version that provides no access to any FIFA competition, interrupts the World Cup campaigns of those still in contention for Brazil 2014, and at best offers extra matches for fringe players from the Hex participants and the 34 national teams in our region with nothing better to do.

I have already gone on record stating my preference for a new World Cup cycle in which CONCACAF participation in an expanded Copa América leads to the abrogation of the biennial Gold Cup. Until this becomes a reality, as ex-General Secretary Chuck Blazer argued, the “commercial event” helps foot the bill for football throughout the continent. Nonetheless, I do recognize the utility of maintaining the biennial Copa Centroamericana and Caribbean Cup, in order to increase the number of competitive fixtures for emerging teams in both sub-regions. In an ideal world, the teams taking part would be chasing lucrative and scarce berths in the 2015 Gold Cup, knowing that success would exempt them from the nerve-wracking second go-around of these tournaments in two years’ time. As it is, they will play for the right to join the North Americans in what will hopefully be the last of the “meaningless” Gold Cups.

The first round of qualifying for the Caribbean Cup finals has yet to finish up, with the last group currently underway in St. Lucia. The winner will join Haiti, French Guyana and host Grenada, while the runner-up will head down to Trinidad and Tobago to face the hosts, Cuba and Suriname, with two spots in the Caribbean Cup finals available in each group. While those fixtures conveniently revolve around the November 14 FIFA matchday, one second-qualifying-round group will kick off tomorrow, given that its membership is already set.

In Abymes and Baie-Mahault, Guadeloupe, the hosts will begin the campaign to qualify for their fourth-straight Gold Cup. That Martinique will join them is no surprise, given that the fellow département d’outre-mer also has previous continental experience under its belt. The two teams rounding out Group 7, however, will attempt to reach the Caribbean Cup finals for the first time, and their presence in this round speaks directly to the benefit of increased World Cup participation for the smaller teams in CONCACAF. The Puerto Ricans held Canada to a 0-0 draw at BMO Field and lit up St. Lucia for seven goals in the elementary round last year, providing coach Jeaustin Campos the opportunity to mold together a team that subsequently pounded Saint-Martin 9-0 and beat Bermuda 2-1 in Haiti en route to this current round.

The rise of the Dominican Republic is even more noteworthy: under the guidance of Domingo Hernandez, the Bachata Boyz defied expectations by gaining four points from Suriname (including a victory in Paramaribo) and finishing in second behind El Salvador in 2011. Jonathan Fana and co. followed that accomplishment by winning their 2012 Caribbean Cup opening group in Barbados, defeating the hosts and gaining revenge on Dominica after the latter eliminated the Dominican Republic from the 2010 Caribbean Cup in San Cristobal. They have never before reached this stage, and their presence marks the first time in the history of the tournament that all Spanish-speaking national teams have survived the first round of qualifying, no small feat considering the traditional dominance of baseball in the three islands.

The Francophone and Hispanophone derbies have been saved for last with this week’s schedule. First, on Tuesday at 6:00 p.m. (all times EDT), Martinique will face off against Puerto Rico, while Guadeloupe take on the Dominican Republic at 8:00 p.m. The French will switch partners on Thursday, as Martinique play the Dominican Republic at 6:00 p.m. and Guadeloupe receive Puerto Rico at 8:00 p.m. Finally, the boricuas will renew their rivalry with the Dominicans on Saturday at 6:00 p.m., after which Guadeloupe and Martinique will close out the group at 8:00 p.m. The matches are certain to be tightly-contested, since having head-to-head as the first tiebreaker opens up the possibility of guaranteeing a trip to Antigua and Barbuda in two games. Oddly enough, the teams in good position may find incentive to take their foot off the pedal on Matchday 3: the runner-up will land in Antigua’s group, while the winner will have to deal with Caribbean overlords Jamaica.

I have not found any online audio or video streams for the games, but I will be sure to pass on that information here once it becomes available.

UPDATE: many thanks to regular reader brentgoulet for sharing the following: while there is no video broadcast available, the radio stations Guadeloupe 1ere and RCI will provide live, French-language coverage of Guadeloupe’s matches. Meanwhile, Martinique 1ere will carry the first games on Tuesday and Thursday.

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