Gold Cup preliminary round matchups promise hope, fireworks


Gold Cup preliminary round matchups promise hope, fireworks

Thursday, October 01, 2020

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Not to be outdone by the glitz and interest of the group stage, the draw for the preliminary round of the Concacaf Gold Cup served up its own fireworks.

For the first time, the confederation had a draw for the Gold Cup, and in a virtual setting, the 12 teams that qualified automatically via the Concacaf Nations League discovered their group placing.

In the 16-team competition, 12 other Concacaf members will vie for three spots to the 2021 edition in a preliminary knockout tournament to kick off just ahead of the group stage of the Gold Cup.

Guest team Qatar will complete the 16-team grid.

Like the group draw results, the preliminary tournament draws also revealed several interesting matchups.

Among them is the Saint Vincent and the Grenadines versus Haiti fixture, where the former's Head Coach Kendale Mercury says gives his team a chance to a play a top opponent.

“It's a good draw for us… we have done some work on the Haitian team already, so that's an advantage for us. We are aspiring to get to the top of Concacaf, so we must play the top teams and Haiti will be a good test for us,” said the St Vincent and Grenadines boss.

Also, fireworks are expected in the showdown between Central America's Guatemala and Caribbean zone's Guyana. While Guyana's Golden Jaguars played in the 2019 Gold Cup, Guatemala are looking to make a return since their 2015 appearance.

“Guyana played in the previous Gold Cup, so they have that experience. I don't believe there are any weak opponents and Guyana are very worthy of once again being here, as evidenced by their results in the Nations League, which included a draw with Jamaica,” noted Guatemala Head Coach Amarini Villatoro.

With consecutive appearances in the confederation's top competition in Guyana's projections, negotiating the preliminary round's slippery slope will be the key to success.

“Guatemala are a very strong opponent and among the most experienced teams, in my view, but I think with a good preparation, we can be a surprise for Guatemala,” said Golden Jaguars Head Coach Marcio Maximo.

Tiny Montserrat, whose football has made quantum leaps in the recent past, will be tested by a more seasoned Trinidad and Tobago, all things being equal.

“Whatever happened for us was going to be exciting because a small country like Montserrat playing against any of the bigger teams is a great challenge and the bigger the team, the better. It'll be fantastic for us and a great challenge,” said Montserrat Head Coach Willie Donachie.

French Guiana, who are hunting to be back in since the 2017, will face off with Cuba in their preliminary matchup

Their Head Coach Thierry Albert De Neef of Les Yana Dokos is fully aware of the Cuba challenge, a country that has contested four of the last five Gold Cup tournaments.

“I don't think the match will be easy for us. We have to play with determination and conviction, and we must believe in our qualities,” said De Neef.

For the Guadeloupe and The Bahamas battle, the former's coach, Jocelyn Angloma, says he needs to study the little-known Bahamians.

“We don't know Bahamas well, but we will watch and study them and will be excited to play,” he said.

Bahamas Head Coach Nesley Jean, a former player, is relishing the opportunity to play against “a good team”.

“I think it's a good draw and it's a great opportunity for us to compete. It's an honour to play in a huge tournament against a good team. We will have challenges, but it gives us a chance to demonstrate our ability on a certain level,” he noted.

In the final first round matchup, an exciting contest looms between Bermuda and Barbados, two countries thinking large in expanding their pedigree in Concacaf.

Bermuda Head Coach Kyle Lightbourne believes that the growing rivalry with Barbados will set the stage for a thriller when they eventually cross swords.

“It's a difficult draw for us. We have had some tough matches over the years against Barbados and this one could go either way, so we will have to prepare right and may the best team win on the day,” said the Bermudan tactician.

Bermuda are seeking back-to-back qualification to the Gold Cup after making their first showing in 2019.

Meanwhile, Barbados Head Coach Russell Latapy has taken aim at taking his team over the proverbial bump in the road and qualify for their firt Gold Cup.

“We're looking forward to it. We've never qualified for a major tournament and this is an opportunity for us… we're going to make every effort to move up in the football world.

“Barbados football needs to qualify for a major tournament [and] we have talented players, and they need an opportunity to showcase themselves,” said Trinidadian Latapy.

— Sean Williams

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