Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Invite Denmark to join CONCACAF

Denmark .....

CONCACAF is in a dearth need of quality national teams. Mexico has been the standard bearer for years. The USA seems to come of age when they were grated to host the 1994 World Cup in 1989. Costa Rica has pouched above it’s weight for years, qualifying for the last 3 World Cups. The quality of teams really seems to drop after these 3. Canada, Honduras and Jamaica have come up with good teams but nothing consistent.
CONCACAF is broken up into 3 regions. North America Zone (the 3 Big ones), Central America (7 nations), and the Caribbean Regions (40 members). This always seems unbalanced because the top teams are in the smallest region.
The UNCAF play a regional tournament, the UNCAF Nations Cup and the Caribbean has the Caribbean Cup every 2 years. The N Am countries have no such tournament. I was just wishing that North America has another quality team. Maybe break the USA into 2 teams, California (33 million) and the USA. Maybe Mexico could break the Yucatan Peninsular off to create a quality team. These ideas would be pretty cool but to create another team….. but are just too far fetched.
I was thinking I wish a team had the quality of Mexico, USA and Canada to compete with them. Like a European team that could boost the image of CONCACAF. I referred to my North American map again and realized Greenland is a part of North America. Greenland is a part of Denmark. Why don’t CONCACAF invite Greenland or Denmark to join CONCACAF.
Every 2 years the 4 North American teams could play a round robin to declare a North American Zone Region Champion. This way each region could declare a Champion. Each of the North American Zone could also anchor a group in the newly expanded Gold Cup (16 teams). Each group would have a representative of the North American zone, a Central American zone and 2 Caribbean teams (almost).
Denmark or even Greenland would give CONCACAF a badly needed quality team to play year in and year out. It would also allow the Gold Cup to expand to 16 nations with out a drop in quality of play. Denmark would give CONCACAF nations more European exposure with a team from Europe. It would give Denmark an easier route to the World Cup. The top teams in CONCACAF need quality opponents to play in meaningful games and you just can not find them in COCACAF. This is a mock expanded Gold Cup (16 CONCACAF teams)

Group A Mexico, Panama, Cuba, Puerto Rico
Group B Canada, Honduras, T & T, Grenada
Group C Denmark, Costa Rica, Jamaica, Haiti
Group D USA, Guatemala, El Salvador, Guadeloupe

Denmark might bite at the chance to qualify every 4 years in the much easier CONCACAF region compared to the UEFA. Yup I am crazy and have a little time on my hands today…….ahhhh I was just thinking…….take it easy.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Costa Rica cruises

Group A Group B
Honduras 2-0-0 Costa Rica 2-0-0
El Salvador 1-1-0 Guatemala 0-0-1
Nicaragua 0-1-1 Panama 0-0-1
Belize 0-0-2

Costa Rica went unbeaten in their semi-final World Cup qualifing going 6-0 against El salvador, Suriname and Haiti. They were then placed in the UNCAF nations cup with Panama and guatemala. Well they scored 3-0 pasting of Panama, then posted a 3-1 loss on Guatemala to remain undefeated in Group B. They are in the knockout round of the UNCAF nations cup 2009. the wins also placed them int CONCACAF's Gold Cup 2009. Guatemala will play Panama for a spot in the knockout round. The loser will have to play the 3rd place finisher of Group A.
Group A has host Honduras with 2 win and a ticket to the knockout round and a ticket to the Gold Cup 2009. This will be their 9th appearance in the Gold Cup. The most interesting games are yet to be played. Honduras has El Salvador while Nicaragua plays Belize. Nicaragua has been the surprise team so far. they tied El Salvador in the opening game. If Nicaragua beats Belize which look likely and host Honduras beats El Salvador Nicaragua will qualify for the Gold cup autamatically. Honduras is already through so El Salvador will give everything they have while Honduras can sit back. Whoever wins will have to go up against regional power Costa Rica in the knockout round.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

UNCAF Cup preview

The UNCAF Nations Cup

January 22-February 1

The UNCAF Nations Cup is a biennial soccer tournament, held for the CONCACAF national teams of Central America: (Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama) The tournament has been held since 1991 and doubles as a qualifying event for the Gold Cup. The top 5 teams will qualify for CONCACAF Gold Cup 2009. This years Nations Cup will be held in Tegucigalpa Honduras. Every nation in UNCAF (excluding Belize) has hosted twice except Panama who have only hosted once in 2003. The Cup was originally awarded to Panama. Panama’s national stadium is currently under a $19 Million renovation. Apparently work has not progress as planed and Panama’s stadium will not be ready. The alternative stadium Rod Carew also appears not to be an option. Negotiations between the FePaFut, the UNCAF, the company Traffic and the owners of the stadium failed to agree. Costa Rica was seen by many as favorites to take over organizing the championship since they were they first one’s to host in 1991. However Costa Rica’s federation said it would be too expensive to run. "So far, we have no official communication from organizers and, on our own, it is not possible to contemplate the organization of the Nations Cup as the necessary budget for this type of tournament is too high," Costa Rican Football Federation secretary General Joseph Ramirez is quoted as saying. The tournament is sponsored by Digicel the wireless communications giant in Central America. Digicel provides valuable financing to this tournament but apparently does not cover every expense. Digicel also sponsored the last 2 Caribbean Cups.
Honduras and Guatemala both submitted bids when Panama defaulted and it was Honduras who was awarded the tourney. Honduras last hosted in 2001. They will be one of the favorites to win since they will be playing on their home pitch. A quick at each group;

Group A
(Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Belize)

This group has 2 of the three teams playing in the HEX for the World Cup Qualifying in Honduras and El Salvador. The other 2 nations were probably grouped with Honduras since they are not that good. The idea here is to keep the host nation in the tournament for fan support and money at the gate.

Honduras currently holds back to back titles in 1993 and 1995. Honduras is coming off winning the U-23 Olympic qualification against the yanks in 2008. This was significant since the tourney was held in the states. Honduras will be led by Captain Amando Guevara. He has over 100 caps. He applies his trade for Toronto FC. Ramon Nunez grew up in US and played for SMU. He also played for Dallas FC and Chivas. He is small but will uncork a shot with any open space. Revolution fans will look for Maricio Castro(Revolution) on the left to feed their talented forward Carlos Pavon.

El Salvador: Every player but one player in the domestic El Salvador league. It is definitely not the top league in Central America but El Salvadorians do not care. They may feel a little disrespected that no other club wants their players. Eliseo Quintanilla who plays in the middle is by far the best player they have. They have never made the UNCAF Championship game. They came in 3rd 4 times and 4th 4 times. PTW Eliseo Quintanilla, Arturo Alvarez (San Jose Earthquake),Edwin Miranda ( Puerto Rico Islanders.)

Belize is the smallest Central American Country. They also have the smallest population. They are the only English speaking Central American nation. Belize could challenge. They had a very good showing against Mexico with a 2-2 tie in the USA during World Cup Qualifying. Let’s see if they can battle their Central America counterparts. They have never advanced in this tournament. They wear the all red uniforms.

Nicaragua has been trying to get it’s house in order for some time however it would be nice if they challenged for the knockout round. Nicaragua has never made the knockout round and will battle Belize to avoid being tagged the worst Central America team.
Prediction Honduras easily wins group with El Salvador taking second.
Players to Watch (ptw): (Hon) Amando Guevara (Toronto FC), Hon- Ramon Nunez (CD Olympia), Hon-FW-Carlos Pavon, El Salvador (Eliseo Quintanilla)

Group B
(Costa Rica, Panama, Guatemala)

Costa Rica have reached the finals every tournament (except one) winning 6 out of the 9 UNCAF Cups. They should be a strong favorite to emerge from this group. Walter Centino will control the middle feeding veteran Alvaro Saborio up front. Tico’s are the reigning Champions and have won the last 3 in a row. They have the best domestic league by far. PTW Celso Borges, Walter Centino (Saprissa), Alvaro Saborio.

Panama will challenge Costa Rica for the top spot in Group B. They should still be stinging bad about missing the World Cup Qualifying loss to El Salvador. They will have something to prove and should play with a chip on their shoulder. They have had a great run from 2005 until the upset from El Salvador in 2008. They will be looking for an international title to hang in their newly remodeled National Stadium. Their best result was the last UNCAF Cup in El Salvador. They battled Costa Rica to a 1-1 tie. They only lost in the penalty shoot out. They should be gunning for Costa Rica in this group play.

Guatemala plays a very physical game and they will be fighting for respectability from the start. They have been runner up in the UNCAF Cup a record 4 times. They did win the UNCAF Cup in 2001. Oddly enough the tourney was in Honduras. Maybe Guatemala can rekindle its magic and win another one here.

Prediction Costa Rica wins group and Panama earns second place.

Semi finals Honduras will handle Panama while Costa Rica will exert it’s will over on overmatched El Salvador. Final I see Honduras finally breaking Costa Rica grip on the UNCAF Cup with a hard fought victory.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Caribbean Cup review

Caribbean Cup
Caribbean Cup
A quick look at the Caribbean region and the Caribbean Cup 2009 Jamaica. The Caribbean region is made up of 25 FIFA members and 5 territories. The Caribbean Cup began in 1989 and is a biannual tournament. The top 4 team make CONCACAF’s Gold Cup. This seems a bit unfair compared to the other 2 regions that make up CONCACAF. The Central American region (UNCAF) places 5 out of 7 countries and The North American Football Union (NAFU) automatically qualifies all 3 nations (USA, Mexico and Canada). This years Caribbean Cup was again sponsored by Digicel which provides financing for the tournament. I want to express my disappointment Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic did not enter this tournament. These nations both have huge populations and would have made the tournament that much more interesting. Purto Rico has about 4 Million inhabitants and just started a domestic league this year. This would have been a great opportunity to create a scense of nationalism on the island to back their national team. Dominican Rep has over 9 Million wich is more than 6 of the 7 Central American countries. (Only Guatemala has a bigger populous.) It is just a shame that the fans of these nations did not have a team to cheer for. Group stage Two was staged in 3 locations. Guadeloupe, Trinidad and Cuba. As we all know there is a huge advantage of playing on your home pitch and the home crowd was not disappointed. All hosting teams can out on top in their group. A quick look at the Stage two:
Group F was palyed in Guadeloupe. The games were played in Stade René Serge Nabajoth stadium. The capacity is 7,500 and an average of 4,000 turned out for the 3 matches that involved Guadeloupe. Guadeloupe had by far the best fan support on Stage 2. The Gwada boys like to go on offense and score they did. They blasted 7 goals past the Cayman Island (7-1). Then they came from behind to beat Grenada 2-1. This set up the final match with their local French department rival Martinique. Guadeloupe again came from behind to beat Martinique 3-1. This score turn out to knock a solid Martinique team out of the Finals. The pivotal game for both Grenada and Martinique was the game against each other. This game turned into a 2-2 tie. Then both Grenada and Martinique ended tied with 4 points apiece. The next tie breaker was goal differential where Grenada was +1 and Martinique was -1. Grenada squeaked through by scoring more goals than Martinique. Martinique had made the Gold Cup 3 times previously but it was not in the cards this year. Grenada was the team from this tough group to make it through. They proved to be a very sound team. The Cayman Islands did not win a game but they played a lot better against Grenada and Martinique.
Group G was hosted in Havana Cuba. Cuba took advantage of their home field by getting 7 points to win the group. The Cubans also scored the most goals of any stage two team with 14 goals for. The fans support however was very poor. There was only an average of 1,000 supporters turn out to see their national team play. I guess they were more interested in the World Cup qualifying which was the same month. Barbados and Suriname battled for second place in this tight group. The Bajans of Barbados posted a 3-2 victory over upstart Suriname to earn a total of 7 points. Suriname like Cuba was participating in World Cup qualifying this month so the Caribbean Cup was of lesser importance. They sure disappointed their fans back at home. Many in Suriname believe they would have made the final 8 and a chance to play in the Gold Cup in 2009. They did tie Guyana in Guyana in earlier matches but could never recover from the 3-2 defeat to Barbados. Netherlands Antilles lost their opener 7-1 to host Cuba and could not recover. The played a lot better against Barbados and Suriname but did not win a game.
Group H: Surprise, surprise Trinidad and Tobago are hosting another soccer event. This turned out to be the most competitive group with 4 quality teams battling for just 2 spots. No one team dominated. Trinidad and Tobago and Antigua & Barbuda got the edge here. There was a very poor showing of about 1,000 fans at each game like Cuba. We were all expecting the Jaguars of Guyana to advance here. They were on a 14 game winning streak starting between 2005 and 2006 which drove them 96 places up the World ranking. Guyana only tied St Kitts in their opening match. Then lost a stunner 2-1 to Antigua and Barbuda, in the 78 minute, to a strike by Christian. This was Guyana’s only loss but they needed a win to advance. Guyana did tie Trinidad however the game did not matter, 2 teams were already through. St Kitts & Nevis stayed competitive but did not advance in this difficult group.
The Fianl Round had host Jamaica and the reigning Caribbean Champion Haiti join the top 2 winners of Stage Two. The groups were:

Group I Cuba, Guadeloupe, Haiti and Antigua & Barduda
Group J Jamaica, Grenada, Trinidad & Togabo and Barbados

Group I was the most intriguing at the start. 3 teams had made the Gold Cup in 2007 and only 2 would go through this year. No team in group I had a home field advantage, so one team dominated. Cuba looked good since they were scoring and they won this group. The reigning Champion Haiti was not as sharp since they were not participating in the previous rounds. Both Haiti and Guadeloupe ended with idential records at 1-1-1. The goal differential also was identical at 0. Guadeloupe got through since they scored more goals. Guadelouope also beat Haiti 2-1 earlier in group play so it was only fitting they would make the semi-finals. Haiti only victory came against Cuba after Cuba was through on the last group game. Haiti does not have a domectic league but have loads of talent. It will be to bad Haiti and their passionate fans base in Miami can not participate in the next Gold Cup.
Group J had the regional power hosting so it was a matter of who would come in second place. The key game was between Grenada and Trinidad which was the first game played. Grenada posted a 2-1 victory over the Soca Warriors which turn out to be their downfall. The game was tied in the 70 minute by Trinidad’s Leo. However at the 90 minute Charles of Grendada scored the winner to propel Grenada to the knock out round and their first Gold Cup. Trinidad did tie Jamaica but Jamaica was already through and the game did not matter to the Reggae Boyz.
The knock out round had Cuba tie Grenada 2-2 go to a shoot out. Grenada prevailed with a 5-6 margin. Jamaica took care of business with a 2-0 victory over Guadeloupe in the other semi-finals. The final was a rematch of group play between Jamaica and Grenada which Jamaica won handily 4-0. There was a penalty in each half which resulted in goals for Jamaice. Shelton scored both times for Jamaica. It is always good to play host in tight game. Sometimes you can get a call or two.
Jamaica was the favorite going into the tournament since they would be playing on their home pitch. They reestablished themselves as one of the top regional powers in the Caribbean Cup and in World Cup qualifying. Grenada turned out to be giant killer’s edging past a quality Martinique team then getting by both Trinidad and Barbados in the Final round. Cuba continues to be a power in the Caribbean. Cuba overwhelmed Netherlands Antilles 7-1, pounded Suriname 6-0 and Tied Barbados 1-1 in Stage 2. Then they beat Guadeloupe 2-1, blanked Antigua and Barbuda 3-0 before losing to reigning Champion Haiti 1-0 when the game did not matter to them. Their only other loss was a shoot loss in the semi finals to Grenada. Guadeloupe continues to impress with it strong tactical form on the pitch and continued wins. Trinidad & Tobago surprisingly did not make the knockout round and there fore will not particapate in the CONCACAF’s Gold Cup 2009. Warner can not be pleased with his direct ties to the national team. The reigning Champions Haiti disappointed their faithful and only played 3 games in this tournament. Antigua and Barbuda surprised everyone to make it to the Finals. They were led by the scoring duo of Peter Byers of the Montreal Impact and Jamie Thomas with 6 goals apiece. Barbados did make it to the Final 8 but did not win a game against the Caribbean’s elite. It is good to see other teams challenge perennial Caribbean power Trinidad & Tobago. They have won 8 Caribbean Cups but they have also hosted that many Finals. Jamaica now has 4 Titles, Trinidad has 8, and both Haiti and little Martinique have 1 apiece. There is no word on who will host the next Caribbean Cup but Puerto Rico may make a strong push. They now have the stadium and domestic league that has created interest. The Dominican Rep has to jumpstart the marketing for the sport. Guyana has recently opened their National stadium. The sport in growing and thanks to Digicel sponsorship it will continue to do so.