Sunday, February 13, 2011

Central American Cuo review

Central American Cup 2011

Ok, I have been absent from my blog duties and I am very sorry. The next favorite tournament I like next to the Gold Cup is the Central American Cup. This tournament is a step up from the Caribbean Cup since it does not last 3 months like the Caribbean Cup and the play is better for the most part. IT usually has bigger crowds and interest. As we know the top 5 qualify for the Gold Cup. This year’s tournament was played in Panama’s Rommell Stadium. I was a little disappointed at first with the attendance. Panama played a friendly against Costa Rica and over 30,000 were in attendance. I was thinking this same number would turn out to support their nation in the competitive Central American Cup. I was wrong the biggest crowd was only 20,000. Taking a closer look and with time to reflect I would have to say that soccer and the national teams are progressing slowly but steadily.

Like I said I was disappointed in the Panama fans. Only 10k turned out for the group game against El Salvador. Only a few hundred attended Belize and Nicaragua games. This is a shame no one in Panama supported their nation in the group stage. Shame on their fans. Only 10k turned out for the knock out game against the border rival Costa Rica. I guess they(the fans)though they were going to win the tournament and were waiting for the final. Well it serves them right. Their national team needed a full stadium but only 10k came to the Costa Rica game. Any national would be inspired playing in front of a passionate, full house to spur their team to victory. Panama fans abandoned their team when the team needed them the most. Their fans no not deserve the Championship. They (Panama) had 32k turn out for a friendly (Costa Rica) but only 10 for the Central American Cup. I do not know why but this is a reason why the Gold Cup will not be hosted in a Central American nation. No one is interested in other nations….including Panama. Honduras and El Salvador had much better turn out for their national team. 20k turned out for every group game in Tegucigalpa and 20k turned out for the one knockout game Honduras played. This was more that twice the attendance Panama produced.
First we have to congratulate Honduras for winning the tournament away from Home. Honduras won the hard group consisting of Costa Rica and Guatemala. They then proceeded to beat El Salvador 2:0 in the knockout round and Costa Rica in the final 2:1. It had been 15 years without this Championship. That is a long time for this nation to celebrate. No doubt that this national team came in confident after playing in the World Cup in South Africa. They took the experience of playing against the best in the world and applied their experience to win this tournament. After beating Costa Rica in the Hex and beating them again in the Central American Cup we can say they have overtaken Costa Rica as the top team in the region.

This is not only good for Honduras but good for the tournament and good for the region. Let me explain. Honduras becomes the 3rd different nation to win this tournament for the 3rd time in a row (Costa Rica 2007, Panama in 2009 Honduras in 2011). These 3 nations have created a little separation form the rest of Central America. This is a positive sign that none of this nation was the home team in the tournament they won. I am glad there were no outrageous calls and non calls favoring the home team that we see in other tournaments. Having 3 different Champions just make the nations more competitive against each other.

Costa Rica has again made the Championship game. The Tico’s are the most consistent team in the region. This makes 10 out of 11 tournaments they have made the final. The set the bar in the region and continue to be the team to beat. Every nation strives for the consistency Costa Rica displays. I think they would have had another Championship however a Tico was red carded during the final. The red card is the kiss of death for most teams. Costa Rica disappointment was Honduras’s elation.

El Salvador is defiantly a tier 2 team along with Guatemala in the region. They are fighting to make the top tier but are just not there yet. They beat the teams they were suppose to beat (Nicaragua, Belize) and lost to who they were suppose to lose to (Panama and Honduras). There is nothing to report here …hopefully they can field a good competitive team in the Gold Cup.

Guatemala is again a disappointment to me. They are a nation of over 14 Million (largest population) and still did not qualify for the knockout round. They use to make the final every year in the tournament. The made the tournament Championship game 5 times out of 11 (only winning one). Now they are struggling to make the knockout round. It is safe to say that Panama has taken their spot as one of the top 3 in the region. Guatemala has dipped to the second tier with El Salvador. Hopefully we will see a good team perform in the Gold Cup this summer. They certainly have the fans here in the states if they can produce a quality team…time will tell but I a not holding my breath.

Belize and Nicaragua. Ok these 2 nations are the 3rd Tier in the region. They are not that good or very deep. Neither has a strong domestic league. These nations use to be on lopsided games like Honduras 10-2 Nicaragua and Costa Rica 4:0 Belize in the 2001 event. Since 2003 these nations have been in the same group to avoid the discrepancy in play. Nicaragua finally made the Gold Cup in 2009 but Belize is still looking for their first win…this is patheric. Nicaragua has potential with the hiring of Spaniard Enrique Llena. Llena is managing the entire Nicaragua soccer operation (aka Sunan Galati for the USA). He oversees the soccer leagues, he set up a web site and I only now realize there are 3 tiers in the Nicaragua pyrament, he is involved in teaching the coaches how to coach everything. The federation is committed to make soccer the number 1 sport and over take baseball. I think it will take about 4 to 5 years when the youth teams develop some quality players….I hate waiting… but will haveto for Nicaragua.

Belize the only English speaking nation in Central America is struggling mightily to keep pace in the region. They are a nation of only 300,000 people. They have not won a game in this tournament ..EVER! They did beat St Kitt and Nevis in the opening round of WCQ 2010. They ended up playing Mexico and playing their home game in the states. They played in the states to get badly needed $ to run their federation. This did not sit well with the president of Belize and the riff between the Federation and politics widened. I do not see Belize getting anybetter quickly and I do not have much info on their domestic league. Just to say something positive for their fans... They have cool looking uniforms.

All in all it was good a different nation won the event. Panama did host the same event in 2003 and there was hardly a few hundred at each game. Now Panama is getting 10k for bigger games. I want to see a full house. Why on earth did the Federation spend 19 Million to remodel Rommell when they can not even sell out for this TOURNAMENT!!!!!!! Shame on their fans !!!!!! They should have invested 2 million on each little stadium around Panama to grow the sport.....Bad decision in my opinion. OK I am still a little upset at the lack of attendance.....

I just want CONCACAF nations to be more competative in the Gold Cup. My hope is having 5 quality teams from CA but I guess 3 will do.............


Lorric said...

Apology accepted :)

As promised, I offer my thoughts on the Copa Centroamericana.

Your attendance figures really surprise me. The first 3 matches don't, people would be unlikely to spend their money on Belize and Nicaragua, and Panama were already qualified to the semis when they met El Salvador. But I thought the support vs Costa Rica was fantastic. I thought the place was packed. Maybe the 10,000 were just making so much noise it appeared that way. They went mental when Panama equalised! But yes, more for a friendly that a competitive tournament is a big surprise to me.

I also agree Honduras have earned the right to be referred to as CONCACAF's 3rd best team. Although in the final I had an internet failure in the middle, missing the red card and the 2nd Honduran goal. So when I went to highlights to witness that goal, I was shocked to see the red card, because Costa Rica dominated completely that part of the match and Honduras barely held on, if you'd told me of a red card, I would have thought Honduras were a man light. But bottom line they won, they got it done, they played Costa Rica twice and didn't lose, and also they battered Costa Rica 4-0 in World Cup qualifying, on their way to the World Cup. It's up to Costa Rica to take back the mantle of 3rd best team.

I was sad to see Panama go out in the semis. They were the only team that truly entertained me, though I thought the final was the best game. They completely dominated Costa Rica, and I'm sure if there was extra time, Panama would have ran over Costa Rica. As it was, a piece of brilliance from a free kick in a match largely played in Costa Rica's half, then a penalty shootout win saw Costa Rica scrape past Panama.

Guatemala. A comment I put on another blog:

"Guatemala in Pot C either way, that is pathetic. Guatemala has 14 million people, and the national sport is football. They should be dominating in that region. Instead they barely scraped past Nicaragua to get into the Gold Cup, after failing to even do that last time."

That's right. Guatemala are currently on course to be outside the top 16 in CONCACAF, and thus Pot C under the new CONCACAF World Cup qualifying system, barring a decent showing at the Gold Cup. "Either way" refers to two sets of rankings, as it is unclear which CONCACAF will use. Guatemala are outside the top 16 in both of them. And I watched all the Copa Centroamericana matches, and Guatemala didn't exercise superiority in any way over Nicaragua. It was an evenly contested match, and luckily for Guatemala it went their way, unlike last year. Guatemala could go out in the very first round of World Cup qualifying if they end up in Pot C and get a difficult Pot B team like El Salvador or Trinidad and Tobago. Right now I think Guatemala are closer to Nicaragua in ability than El Salvador.

As for the 2013 Copa Centroamericana, I'd like to see it in one of two places. Didn't you say Nicaragua now have a fit stadium to host it? That would really shake things up I think if Nicaragua hosted. Although I'm sure they'd be grouped with El Salvador, Guatemala and Belize, leaving Honduras, Costa Rica and Panama to slug it out in the 3 team group. It would however, give Nicaragua a realistic chance of maing the semis. Although the attendance would likely be the lowest ever.

The other host would be Costa Rica. They haven't won it now for two tournaments straight, and haven't hosted since 1999. It seems the perfect time for Costa Rica to again host the Copa Centroamericana.

Awww, leave little Belize alone. Come on, they're at a terrible disadvantage, even to Nicaragua. At least they've managed to stop getting completely crushed.

Oh, and I also quite like their kit.

Lorric said...

Oh, and the refurbishment of the Estadio Rommel Fernandez will likely pay off for Panama in World Cup qualifying, although like you say, it would have been expected to pay off here at the Copa Centroamericana.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your interest Lorric.....
James LaGrange

Lorric said...

You're welcome.

No rest for you. CONCACAF U17 Championship starts today! :)