Thursday, March 10, 2011

2011 Gold Cup Groups: Canada kicks off in Motown

Unsurprisingly, I'm a few days behind on this story, but it's worth posting anyway. The Gold Cup groups have been announced (the term 'draw' does not really apply in the case of CONCACAF) and they are as follows:

Group A: Mexico, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Cuba
Group B: Honduras, Guatemala, Jamaica, Grenada
Group C: USA, Panama, Canada, Guadeloupe

The biggest storyline for Canadian fans is the opening clash against the USA at Ford Field in Detroit. The last time these two teams met at the Gold Cup this happened. You can't really say that Canada will be out to get revenge, as the Americans can hardly be faulted for poor officiating, but undoubtedly that match will linger in the mind of the Canuck support.

Ford Field will host a Gold Cup border battle

And with the match being played in a border town, and a few hour's drive from this country's largest city, there is a good chance of a large-ish Canadian contingent, even if the match is on a Tuesday night. The Voyageurs have secured a block of 200 seats in a prime position and if you'd like to sit with the hardcores, buy your tickets now.

I don't think I'll be making the trip to Ford Field, but the final group match in Kansas City has me intrigued. Of the 2011 host cities, Kansas City is the closest to my hometown at a mere 13 hours drive (and a rather uncomplicated one as well). The match is against Panama, and will very likely decide whether Canada advances to the quarterfinal rounds.

You see, while Canada's match with the USA will get all the attention, it is not one that Canada should reasonably expect to win. USA's FIFA rank might be a tad inflated, but they are a class above Canada. Guadeloupe are the minnows of the group and Canada and Panama should both win that match without too much trouble. Second place could very well decided on June 14th in KC.

Guadeloupe's inclusion in Group C is a minor misfortune. Though Canada's history against this island nation is dire, this is still a match the team should expect to win. The drawback is that Guadeloupe are not FIFA members so the match would not gain them valuable ranking points in advance of the World Cup draw.

Briefly, I've seen a bit of chatter on the twitter and the boards that Canada's Group C is the Group of Death. Any time Canadian fans make this claim, we are probably giving our own team more respect than they deserve. While Canada would likely fare better if they swapped spots with, say, Jamaica in Group B, the likes of Panama and Guadeloupe are hardly world beaters. Canada should advance from this group and I expect them to do so.

It all still feels a little far away, but with Toronto and Vancouver kicking things off in MLS next weekend, the Voyageurs Cup opener in less than 50 days, and the Gold Cup starting in under 3 months, Canada's summer of soccer is looming on the horizon.


Pompey Canuck said...

I completely agree that it is a misfortune that Guadelope is in our group it puts us at a major disadvantage ahead of the world cup draw.

I really think it is time that CONCACAF insist that all of its members become FIFA members. Having Guadelope in your group is a major handicap as far as rankings are concerned given that the Gold Cup is worth triple FIFA ranking points.

J said...

It is a bit strange and I wonder about the requirements for FIFA membership that Guadeloupe is unable/unwilling to meet. Is it because they are a territory of France?

The Panama match will be critical for progressing in the Gold Cup, but also because a Canada win would likely mean we leapfrog them in the CONCACAF table of the FIFA rankings. There will be a lot on the line in that one.

Anonymous said...

Jono, I have mixed feelings about this group. There is high potential that we'll need to win the last match in order to qualify for the QFs and I am not sure that this squad has the stones to deliver that level of performance come crunch time, even against an opponent we should beat. Granted, there are tons of factors and possibilites that have yet to come into play. If we get a point off of the Yanks I think we'll go through; losing to them puts us behind the 8-ball going into a Guadeloupe game (the perpetual banana peel fixture). Much depends upon how the Panamanians look, especially from a defensive perspective. I think people may get a false sense of confidence based upon what they saw from the club side TFC faced in last year's CONCACAF Champions' League.

Cheers, BearcatSA

J said...

I'll admit to not knowing much about their players or tactics, but even though they are ranked higher Panama does not strike much fear in me as an opponent. But the larger reason for my confidence is that the Gold Cup is a 12-team tournament with 8 teams reaching the QFs. As long as Canada isn't the worst third place finisher, we advance. For that reason it is important that the goal difference against the USA is kept respectable (any result is a bonus).

Of course it will likely all boil down to what kind of team we select, and what our opponents send (Honduras has announced they will select an all-domestic squad).

Thanks for reading and commenting. Please do keep stopping by.

Anonymous said...

^I forgot about the top third place finisher qualifiers and I'd like to think that we'd be in that mix.

As for the squad, I think it will not feature McKenna as Jakovic's CB partner: I just feel that the big guy is going to be a medical absentee, but you never know. And if he has his top guys available for the midfield and forward positions, will Hart continue with using Hutchinson playing deeper in tandem behind the free ranging DeRo, with Simpson on the left, possibly Jackson on the right, and a central attacker du jour (Gerba/Occean/Friend)?

Your thoughts?


J said...

So much depends on who is selected. To be honest I don't think we see De Ro at all in this tournament. I certainly can't see TFC giving up JDG and DDR for 3 or 4 weeks in the middle of the season.

Whatever midfield is selected, I hope Hutchinson is played in an advanced role. He should be THE guy from this point onwards, and given every opportunity to have the attack run through him.

Anonymous said...

^Completely agree with your last point!

Until next time, Cheers