CONCACAF World Cup Spots Wide Open

CONCACAF World Cup Africa Update   By Aldwyn McGill

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  CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying Update

  The already winding road to the FIFA World Cup South Africa 2010 got a bit bumpy for some teams at the first stage of the CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers after the half time scores of most of the games turned out to be final result. This means that some coach’s tactical adjustments are working to perfection to gain their desired result.

The first final result of the CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers was between the Cayman Islands and Bermuda. The visiting Cayman Islands pulled off a 1-1 tie with Bermuda at the Hamilton’s National Sports Centre on February 2, after tying the game towards the end of regulation time. Tyrell Burgess opened the scoring at the 18th minute to give Bermuda the lead, but Cayman Islands Allean Grant scored the equalizer with only three minutes left to give Cayman Islands the much needed tie heading into the teams second leg game on March 26.

The action turned to the Centro Deportivo Guillermo Trinidad in Oranjestad where Antigua & Barbuda defeated host Aruba 3-0 with goals from George Dublin and Grayson Gregory at the 22nd and 27th minute respectively. Aruba close the door on themselves when they score an own goal at the 40th minute to seal the 3-0 win for Antigua and Barbuda. The team’s second-leg game is scheduled for the Antigua Recreation Ground in St. John’s on March 26.

Barbados and Dominica played to a 1-1 tie in yet another game where all the scoring was done in the first half. Barbados Jeffrey Williams tied the game at the 42nd minute mark after Dominica Richard Pacquette opened the scoring at the 20th minute. The teams will meet again at the Kensington Oval in Bridgetown, Barbados on 26 March in the second-leg.

El Salvador demolished Anguilla 12-0 at the Estadio Cuscatlan in San Salvador,

In one of the less than competitive contest in the first leg of the CONCACAF W/C qualifiers. Rudis Corrales scored five times for his team goals while his teammate Ronald Cerritos added another to give El Salvador the lopsided win.

The record books opened as Turks & Caicos Islands outlasted St Lucia 2-1 at the Providenciales’ National Stadium after hosting their first ever CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying game. Gavin Clinton and David Lowery scored for Turks & Caicos Islands, while Gilbert Nyhime scored the lone goal for St. Lucia. The teams will meet again at George Odlum National Stadium in Vieux Fort, St. Lucia on 26 March in the second-leg match.

Belize also entered the record books when they registered their first victory in the history of CONCACAF World Cup Qualification with a 3-1 win over St. Kitts & Nevis at the Estadio Mateo Flores in Guatemala City, Guatemala.

Belize opened the scoring at the seventh minute on a Deon McCalauy goal, but St. Kitts & Nevis Gerard Williams equalized six minutes later.  Harrison Rochez scored what turned out to be the game winner at the 22nd minute while McCalauy provided the insurance goal four minutes before halftime. The team’s second leg game at Warner Park Stadium in Basseterre, St. Kitts & Nevis on 26 March.

In yet another game that was decided by a fist half score the Netherlands Antilles defeated the host Nicaragua 1-0 on a goal scored by Anton Jongsma at the 15th minute mark. The game was played at the Estadio Cacique Diriangen in Diriamba and the win was the first for the Netherlands Antilles since 2004 which gives them a distinct advantage for the second-leg at the Ergillo Hato Stadium in Willemstad on 26 March.

British Virgin Islands will also visit the Bahamas at the BFA National Centre in Nassau on 26 March for their late first leg encounter. The first-leg encounters single elimination game of the 2010 CONCACAF World Cup Qualification for Puerto Rico match up with the Dominican Republic, Grenada with US Virgin Islands, and Montserrat with Surinam will take place during the second-leg encounters of the stage 1 on 26 March.

   CONCACAF World Cup Spots Open

The year 2008 is upon us and my how quickly time has passed when you are having fun. Although the FIFA World Cup is played every four years, for some reason it seems like it was just yesterday when packages were offered to travel to World Cup Germany and the Soca Warriors was the talk of the town.

However with the arrival of 2008 it is anticipated that discussion for World Cup 2010 in South Africa will continue with the fans of the Caribbean teams pondering their decision to attend. Some Caribbean fans are rationalizing the South Africa trip as an opportunity to visit the mother-land, for what it is worth, while the majority of fans are undecided and anxious to see if their team secures one of the four CONCACAF spots before making their plans.

Whatever the fans decide there is no doubt that the 12 top seed in the second stage of the CONCACAF qualifying round is capable of securing one of the four CONCACAF spots into the final grouping for South Africa based on the  showing of the teams at the 2007 tournaments within the CONCACAF region. The two tournaments are the Digicel Cup and the CONCACAF Gold Cup.

At the Digicel Cup for Caribbean supremacy, Haiti defeated host Trinidad and Tobago and won their first became the 2007 Caribbean Champions their first title since 1973.  Jamaica Reggae Boyz the defending champion at the time was defeated by St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) to signal the start of the end for the Reggae Boyz in 2007. Failure to make the final four at the Digicel Cup automatically eliminated the Boyz from the Gold Cup USA 2007.

Although the Gold Cup tournament results were somewhat predictable as host USA successfully defended their title, Mexico the #1 ranked in CONCACAF was defeated not once but twice at the Gold Cup. Their first loss was at the hands of Honduras in Group C action and was ruled as the biggest upset in Gold Cup history. Mexico their second loss was to USA 2-1 after Mexico had a halftime lead. Most importantly was the fact that Mexico struggled with Cuba, Panama, and Costa Rica during the tournament.

It should be noted that Panama was the best playing team at the Gold Cup USA and Canada performance lead by Gold Cup MVP Julian De Guzman signaled that they were not far away from a World Cup berth.  However the Canadian Soccer Association would have to remedy the lack of support shown at home at their last friendly game against Costa Rica at BMO Field in September. Canada was favored to replace Costa Rica for the third CONCACAF spot to South Africa but with the lack of support and their projected group of death with the likes of Mexico, Jamaica, and Honduras, it  seem like the wheel is still turning and anything can happen.

Jamaica football is now on the upside, since their poor showing in the 2007 tournaments. The Jamaica Football Federation has turned their program completely around with whole scale changes through out their system and with a string of International victories at home, the Reggae Boyz may be the dark horse with their feared 12th man advantage.

Trinidad and Tobago football on the other hand seemed to be under constant pressure since their World Cup Germany and needs to see the light at the end of the tunnel. In moving forward I think that it will become important for the Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation to sign an agreement with the players involved in the outstanding dispute, in the event that the arbitrator decision is favorable to the players. The agreement document should allow the affected T&T players to continue their participation for the duration of the 2010 World Cup qualifying rounds. The inclusion of Dwight York and/or Russell Latapy or both into an assistant coaching position would also jump start the T&T program and provide the continuity that is required to instill and reinforce the confidence in the Soca Warriors team.

El Salvador is in a position to create upsets in the CONCACAF beyond the first round and the last I saw of Cuba, their team was only a couple of players away from being a legitimate contender. Panama with Perez up front will be dangerous and I suspect at the end of it all a South American for the fourth spot would present defensive challenges for the fourth place CONCACAF team in the playoffs to South Africa.