The 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup tournament is in its quarterfinal stage and among the eight teams that progressed are Caribbean champion Cuba and runners-up Trinidad and Tobago, and this seems fitting based on their results in the Caribbean tournament, but, hold on, not in this tournament. These results remind us of the old adage, that soccer is a game of glorious uncertainties, and that so many other factors, beyond team performance, determine success. Cuba and Trinidad and Tobago were not the best Caribbean performers in the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup that honor goes to Haiti and Martinique.
In the quarter finals at The Georgia Dome in Atlanta (GA) on Saturday, July 20, Group A winner Panama will play Cuba, one of the two best third-place finishers, at 3:30 p.m. ET; the second half of the doubleheader will see Group A second-place finisher Mexico play Group B second place Trinidad and Tobago at 6:30 p.m. ET.
At the M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore (MD) on Sunday, July 21, Group C winner USA will take on the other third-place finisher, El Salvador, at 4:00 p.m. The doubleheader will end with Group B champion Honduras going against Group C second-place Costa Rica at 7:00 p.m. All games are on Fox Soccer Channel.
The semifinals are on Wednesday, July 24, at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington (TX) when the quarterfinal winners from the Baltimore doubleheader play each other before the winners from the Atlanta games meet. The Gold Cup final is on Sunday, July 28 at Chicago’s Soldier Field at 4:00 p.m.
Trinidad and Tobago and Cuba, though, must be praised. Trinidad did well to beat Honduras, although the opponent had already won the group and used its substitutes and also played with 10 players for much of the game; the Trinidadians did well to garner a 1-1 draw versus El Salvador in their first game, despite a lackluster performance. Cuba, with two losses and only a 4-0 win versus Belize was very disappointing but managed to be one of two best third-place finishers based on goals.
Haiti and Martinique, which finished third and fourth, respectively, in last year’s Caribbean Cup championship, displayed a level of soccer in this tournament that neither Cuba nor Trinidad and Tobago achieved, but conditions beyond players’ control impact the game. Haiti’s display versus Honduras in the teams’ first game was a joy to watch; the Haitians totally dominated the Hondurans, but on two occasions that should have resulted in penalty kicks for Haiti, the referees failed to make calls. Commentators questioned the referee’s no-call; in the Haiti-El Salvador game, the referee’s mistake gave the opponent the victory: a Salvadorian forward fell in the penalty area after a tussle for the ball, as the referee signaled for goal kick, the linesman made him change the call to award El Salvador the penalty in Haiti’s 1-0 loss. Although Haiti beat Trinidad and Tobago, 2-0, the three points were not enough for Haiti to advance; the sentiments among commentators and other following the tournament was a feel of sympathy for Haiti, one of the best-playing teams in the entire tournament that did not advance.
Ditto Martinique! The other French Caribbean team in the tournament, Martinique, got off to a good start by upsetting Canada. Like Haiti, fitness and organization were at the crux of Martinique’s success. They were a disciplined team that did the Caribbean proud; its unfortunate call came in a 1-0 loss to Panama. Martinique was also in the toughest group as Mexico and Panama are very highly skilled teams that are still vying for a CONCACAF berth to the 2014 World Cup.