Saturday, July 30, 2011
The CONCACAF draw
A quick look at Round 2
Group A El Salvador's Group
( El Salvador, Suriname, Cayman Islands, Dominican Republic.)
This is the group of 3's. El Salvador, Suriname and Dominican Republic were all #3 ranked teams in their Pots. Cayman Isl were 5th. El Salvador plays great at Cuscatalan Stadium. They will difficult to beat there. Mexico and Costa Rica both lost in Cuscatalan Stadium. They are my clear favorites in this group. Suriname is the South American nation that could surprise us with the South American flair and attitude. They will be new to World Cup qualifying since they do not have much history here. I do not know much about Cayman Islands. Dominican Republic has been a favorite of mine to follow. They did play in the preliminary round and have not been scored on yet. Their hopes rely on Jonathan Fana (PR Islanders). I am hopeing they can keep things interesting for their fans and the group.
Prediction El Salvador easily win the group. followed by Suriname is a close fight with the Dominican Republic.
Group B The Rivals Group
(Trinidan & Tobago, Guyana, Barbados, Bermuda)
T&T is not the Caribbean power that dominated for a decade. T&T does not have the influence of Jack Warner overlooking the team and the games. The favorable calls for T&T will not be there this qualifying cycle. With that said I still like T&T as the favorite of this group. They have better players overall and experience. This island nation keeps going deep in the Caribbean Cups, playing many times in the Gold Cup and playing in the World Cup. They have the best domestic league in the Caribbean.
There is a good rivaly brewing between Guyana and T&T. Many players on the Guyana’s national team play in the T&T league. This will be interesting how they play and interact when they play each other. Guyana recently lost to T&T in the Caribbean Cup 2010 but the game was in T&T. The score was 2-1. Guyana will be quite excited to play T&T in Guyana finally. Barbados did not advance in the Caribbean Cup 2010 but they did tie St Kitts and St Vincent all with 5 points. They could not advance because of GD. Barbados will keep thing tight. Bermuda is the mystery team. Not only did they not play in the preliminary round of this World Cup qualifying, they did not enter in the Caribbean Cup 2010. They are a great unknown and they may be biding their time for this WC Cycle. There will not be a huge gap in points when this group is done.
Prediction...T&T first followed closely bu Guyana
Group C Panama and the rest
(Panama, Nicaragua, Bahamas, Dominica)
Panama is the strongest nation in Pot 1 and they got the easiest draw. They got the last seed in Pot 2 Dominica. They then got the last seed in Pot 3 (Nicaragua). They followed this up with Bahamas a #5 seed. Panama should dominate from start to finish. Their fans are already looking at their seed in the next round. (Panama if they win would be placed with Honduras, Cuba and the winner of Group Group D..Canada possibly). Dominica is a weak Caribbean nation and I do no see them advancing here. Nicaragua fans are very glum with drawing Panama. I think they would have liked anyone but Panama in this draw. Nicaragua has slowely been building Nicaragua soccer, from the national team, the new national stadium, their youth programs and the Nicaragua national league. This building process is being undertaken by Enrique Quique Llena Leon, who is from Spain. If he can implement anything like the Spanish U-19 youth teams then Nicaragua will be great fun to watch progress. This qualifying cycle was suppose to jump start the country away from baseball and into soccer. I think they end up the #2 team after all games are played. Bahamas have not been scored on yet however they drew 2 Central American teams. The party is over here. Prediction Panama then my upset for #2 ..Nicaragua
Group D Canada vs the Caribbean
(Canada, Puerto Rico, St Kitts and St Lucia)
It will be fun to listen to the Canadian media critique their team as this group progresses. The Canucks expect to win and I expect them to win also. St Kitts was a # 4 seed on Pot 2 but Puerto Rico was a #1 seed from Pot 3. Canada can practice their ball control philosophy against the weaker Caribbean opponents in this round. The Canuck fans are estatice with their semi-final grouping also. The winner of this group will not have to face Us nor Mexico in the semi finals. Puerto Rico could challenge for the 2nd spot. Puerto Rico could even challenge for the top spot but not win it. They have a few players who play for the Puerto Rico Islanders so they will be use to the travel, international games and the professionalism. St Lucia will not make this group easy. They may make it miserable for the group with their tough play.
Prediction Canada followed by another upset...Puerto Rico
Group E Central America vs Caribbean
(Guatemala, Belize, Grenada, St Vincent).
This will be interesting how the Central American nations stakc up against the Caribbean nations. Grenada is ranked above Guatemala and St Vincent is ranked above Belize. I think Guatemala will get more points than Grenada and Belize with win with more points than St Vincents. The top seed Grenada does not look like the favorite here. Guatemala, the Central American nation will be to hard to beat at home. Guatemala also just demolished Grenada 4-0 in the Gold Cup 2011. Guatemala in my mind is the clear favorite. I am very glad they were not grouped with Panama nor El Salvador. However they did draw fellow Central American foe Belize. All of Guatemala is celebrating with this draw. Grenada has played well over the last few year, qualifying for the Gold Cup 2 times in a row. This is a great accomplishment. This group will not be as hard as the Gold Cup groups however they will have to prove themselves here. Belize, I feel sorry for. The governement is interfering to much and the federation FBB is not that good. They do however finally have a home pitch to play on. St Vincent has earned the nick name the "giant killer". This small group of islands can put togather a good team. They will not win the group but could come up with intersting results.
Prediction Guatemala then Grenada however Belize and St vinny will not be far behind Grenada
Group F The Caribbean Group
(Haiti, Antigua and Barbuda, Curacao, US Virgin Islands)
This group has all Caribbean nations playing. The favorites Haiti are in disarray after their earthquake. FIFA is restoring their playing pitch and stadium for the qualifying rounds but the team will be hard pressed to overcome the dismay that still exists in the country. I believe this group has the weakest teams overall. Antigua and Barbuda was the #1 seed in Pot 2 and Haiti was the #6 seed in Pot 1. So these two nations should battle for top spot. I am going to go for the upset here and believe A&B can win this group. Curacao will take over the previous records of the Netherland Antilles and will keep pace with Haiti and A&B. They will keep pace because I see them getting 2 wins against the USVI. The USVI will be cannon foder in this group. They will be lucky to win even at home.
Prediction A&B is my upset of this round. followed by Haiti. Ouch
No one wanted Cost Rica in their group since they were the best nation in their pot. Mexico was saddled with this team, thus making it unpleasant for both nations. If my prediction are correct here are the semi finals, (I will add teams that could win).
Haiti / Antigua and Barbuda
The Hexagonal "Hex"
6 nations from the Semi-finals will advance to the Hex. The top 2 nations of each semi-final group will advance to the Hex. These nations will play a home/away series. The 3 top nations will qualify for the World Cup. The 4th place team will enter into a playoff with the Ocianic Confederation. More than likely New Zealand.