Caribbean and Club World Cup: One Game from History

Posted on December 11, 2012 4:53 pm

By this time on Thursday, the entire discussion of football in our region may change. In the Caribbean, no fewer than three teams stand only 90 minutes, only one victory away from establishing a name for themselves in next year’s Gold Cup, rallying their expatriate communities in the US who may just have become aware of their home country’s footballing growth. Meanwhile, our representatives in Japan might be celebrating an accomplishment of gargantuan proportions…actually, talk of dragon-slaying and mythical references are best left to our friends at Sounder at Heart. Suffice it to say that the survival of generally-accepted hierarchies will be at stake.

The group stage of the Caribbean Cup finals will wrap up over the next two days, and all four Gold Cup qualifiers have yet to be determined. Before we get into the matches, let me clear up any doubts about one crucial factor in the tournament: although the Caribbean Football Union has not made the 2012 tournament rules publicly available, Section XVIII, Art. A, Subpoint 5 of the regulations for the 2010 edition established that head-to-head is the first tiebreaker if teams are equal on points. Furthermore, in the first round of qualifying this year, Guyana topped their group after ending in a three-way tie with St. Vincent and the Grenadines and St. Lucia, based (quoting CONCACAF) on “goal difference in the matches between the three teams.” (emphasis mine)

With this in mind, we turn to today’s action in Group A, where the standings after two games are as follows:

Haiti 4
Dominican Republic 3
Antigua and Barbuda 3
Trinidad and Tobago 1

The Dominicans and Trinidad and Tobago will open up proceedings at 4:00 p.m. (all times EST), while Haiti and Antigua and Barbuda will reenact their fateful World Cup showdown right afterwards at 6:00 p.m. (all matches available on the CFU’s UStream channel). In the first fixture, the Dominicans simply need a victory in order to reach their first-ever Gold Cup; a tie will suffice as well, so long as Antigua fail to win later on. As for the Soca Warriors, qualification is out of their hands: they must defeat the Quisqueyanos AND hope that either Haiti defeat Antigua and Barbuda, or that the hosts win by enough for Haiti to fall behind their fellow Caribbean power-brokers on goal differential (currently +1 for Haiti and -2 for Trinidad and Tobago).

A tie in the first game will automatically qualify Haiti for the Gold Cup thanks to their victory in the Hispaniola Derby on Sunday; les Grenadiers will also move on to the Caribbean Cup semis and make plans for a likely return trip to Miami by defeating or drawing the hosts. The Benna Boys, however, simply need to beat the Haitians again in order to guarantee their maiden appearance in the Gold Cup; a tie will also do for them, so long as Trinidad and Tobago emerges victorious in the first match (thanks to Antigua and Barbuda’s 2-0 victory on Sunday).

Things are even tighter in Group B, whose denouement will take place on Wednesday, with Martinique playing French Guiana at 4:00 p.m. and Cuba facing Jamaica at 6:00 p.m. The current standings:

Martinique 4
Cuba 3
French Guiana 3
Jamaica 1

Martinique already dismissed one of their fellow French overseas departments in order to reach these Finals, and a win or tie against the representatives of Florent Malouda’s corner of the world will send Martinique back to the Gold Cup for the first time since 2003. However, the Guyanais also need just a victory in order to write a new chapter in the history of CONCACAF’s signature event, as the first of its South American contingent to make an appearance. A tie will also serve them well, and in fact send both French teams through, if Jamaica win later on.

As for the 2011 Gold Cup participants, no scenario will allow both to make it back. The Cubans will be happy with a tie, so long as French Guiana fail to win beforehand, while the Reggae Boyz will need to win and rely on Martinique either winning or losing by enough to be overtaken on goal differential.

While all four of the Caribbean teams to have participated in a World Cup finals teeter on the edge of elimination, any failures on their part would not come as a major surprise. Jaws would drop around the world, however, if the regular script got thrown out in the following Club World Cup semifinal.

Thursday, December 13:

CF Monterrey (CONCACAF/Mexico) vs. Chelsea FC (UEFA/England), 5:30 a.m.

Exactly one day after the first 2012 CWC finalist is determined, CONCACAF Champions League winners Monterrey will cross swords with a team in similarly sluggish domestic form; and while the rayados earned themselves the best possible chance at retaining their continental crown, Chelsea have already crashed out of the UEFA Champions League. Let’s not kid ourselves, though: with the attacking talents of Fernando Torres (if/when he fully breaks from his slump), Oscar, Eden Hazard, Frank Lampard and Juan Mata, along with the defensive pairing of David Luis and Branislav Ivanovic in front of the reliable Petr Cech, the Europeans are heavy favorites to continue their confederation’s uninterrupted seven-year run of appearances in the Club World Cup final. The regiomontanos, however, can count on Cesar Delgado counseling his teammates with his European club experience; and given how Chelsea made it to this point, don’t be surprised if Monterrey similarly rely on Severo Meza, Jose Maria Basanta and Hiram Mier to compress space and block out the best strikers they will have faced in their careers. It is true that winning the third-place match on Sunday would place Monterrey right alongside Necaxa and Saprissa as the most successful CONCACAF clubs on the global stage. But why not shoot for immortality, as the first club from our humble region to contest a world championship?

Gold Cup 2013 Qualifiers

1. Mexico
2. USA
3. Canada
4. Trinidad and Tobago
5. Haiti
6. Martinique
7. Cuba

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