The Gold Cup is North America’s crowning tournament, held every 2 years. While it does not hold the same prestige as Copa America or the European Championship, it is starting to become a special tournament in its own right. In the leadup to the beginning of what promises to be an exciting edition, BTSVancity writers Alexandre Gangue-Ruzic and Felix Todd have given a rundown of what’s to come for Canada, breaking down everything from the squad to the tournament itself, which you can check out on our website. Today, they finish off with their own predictions, as they attempt to correctly guess what will happen in this 2019 edition.
The Gold Cup is a very tricky tournament to predict. Every edition seems to be slated for a Mexico-USA final, but many smaller Central American and Carribean teams have shown the ability to surprise. Then there’s Canada, who have typically been underwhelming in this competition, but promise to be a scary team for this year’s edition, while also having the history of being the only one of three countries to have won it all, along with Mexico and the US .This year, however, there is more optimism surrounding the team, but just how far can they go? Some of BTSVancity’s finest break down their thoughts on what can happen.
Editor’s Note: This article was written before the tournament started last Saturday, so all predictions were written before the opening set of matches. So, without further ado, let’s jump into the thoughts of our writers!
Group A (Canada, Cuba, Martinique, Mexico)
Alex: A group that presents 4 CONCACAF veterans promises to be an entertaining one to watch. While any CONCACAF group with Mexico will end up being a battle for second place, Canada looks more than capable to take out Tata Martino’s El Tri, as they come into this one walking wounded. Despite that, I still think Mexico comes up on top in this group, taking out Canada and then handling CONCACAF minnows Martinique and Cuba with ease. While Canada dispatches Martinique and Cuba without a problem, that Denver match pushes them to second. Martinique beats Cuba and has the consolation of a third place finish.
Felix: Canada should exercise the demons of 6 years ago when they were also playing Martinique at the Rose Bowl in the opener, but lost 1-0 on a last minute volley from Fabrice Reuperné. It should be a real tussle for the top spot between Canada and Mexico, but I have Mexico taking it. Even if they don’t beat Canada in Denver, a tie would give them the opportunity to rack up enough goals in their last match of the group against Martinique to surpass Canada. Cuba has had a strong team on certain occasions in the past, but with the defection troubles they’ve had in the United States, they likely won’t be represented by their strongest line-up. I have Martinique taking third spot in this one.
Group B (Bermuda, Costa Rica, Haiti, Nicaragua):
Alex: An underwhelming group on paper, it’s gonna likely be Costa Rica’s group to lose, with Haiti securing the second spot. Despite their golden generation aging out, Costa Rica should have enough in the tank to coast through the group stage before facing stiffer opposition in the quarters. Nicaragua and Bermuda both have potential to take out Haiti, but Haiti will end up being the more composed team and get out of the group ahead of the others.
Felix: It’s an interesting group as it’s hard to make of what Haiti and Costa Rica can offer. I have Costa Rica topping this one. Their squad isn’t quite what it was a few years ago, but still a force to be reckoned with and starting the tournament at home will provide the extra boost needed. Haiti in my opinion will take second spot. Bermuda did very well in qualifying, but is unlikely to surpass any of their opponents in the group stage, while Nicaragua will round out the group in 4th.
Group C (Curacao, El Salvador, Honduras, Jamaica):
Alex: An even group, there will be no mercy felt in this one. Every team has proven their value over the years, leaving this group wide open. Jamaica should progress quite easily, as they have the most experience out of everyone, having made the final in 2017. It’s the battle for second that will be interesting, but this is where I have another big upset coming, with Curacao progressing over CONCACAF giants Honduras and the plucky El Salvador. Curacao has a good squad, with many players playing at a good level, so look for them to surprise in this group.
Felix: In my opinion, the most even group in the tournament. Every game should be interesting, but I have Jamaica topping it. The home crowd in Kingston will power them past seeded Honduras in their opening game. Honduras will advance in second place, but not without Curacao and El Salvador putting up a good fight.
Group D (Guyana, Panama, Trinidad and Tobago, USA):
Alex: Despite the US looking rather unsettled at the moment, they should still progress with ease, as Panama, Guyana and T&T likely to put up much of a threat despite the US’s shocking form of late. The battle for second will be very intriguing, however, and that will fall to Panama, with T&T putting in a great fight, falling just short.
Felix: The USA isn’t the most comfortable squad at the moment, but they should be able to win this Group. I think Panama will be runners-up in the pool. Trinidad and Tobago can compete with the best (notably eliminating the USA for 2018 World Cup Qualifying), but I don’t think there’s enough in the current squad to take a spot in the Quarter-finals. I have them finishing third ahead of Guyana.
The knockout stages kick off with Mexico taking on Haiti, which they take rather comfortably, sending them to the semis, where they face Canada, after taking care of business against a gritty Costa Rican side that will not give an inch. On the other side, Jamaica grinds through a tough Panama team, to play the USA, who cruises past Curacao, who are not able to keep up with their American counterparts.
In the first semi, things get real interesting, as Canada learns from the mistakes of the first match. Knowing what Mexico does, and knowing how wounded their squad appears, they go for the throat and come out with a historic victory that will be remembered around the nation for months to come, propelling them to another Gold Cup final.
And not to be outdone, the US drops the Reggae Boyz in an entertaining rematch of the 2017 final, coming on top in dramatic fashion. While Jamaica will put up a good fight, the momentum built up despite all the noise surrounding Gregg Berhalters team sends them to the final, where they face their northern rivals.
And, in what will be a preview of the Nations League in the fall, Canada takes on the US in a tense final. Despite the US being defending champions, and Canada only having ever won once, Canada conjures up some tournament magic, stealing the final in Chicago despite sitting back and letting the US accumulate possession. While it will not be the most pretty of matches, it goes down in Canadian soccer history, as their young players come together for what turns into a historic run.
While it seems ambitious to select Canada to win this one, this would be a great year to do so. Firstly, Mexico seems very weakened coming into this one, giving Canada a chance to upset them in a potential knockout round clash. Secondly, Canada has seemed to finally have figured out how to beat CONCACAF minnows with ease, something that used to plague their program in the past, getting them out of the group easily for once. Thirdly, most other teams come into this one out of form (USA, Mexico) or with their once strong generations aging out (Panama, Costa Rica, Honduras). The only other team coming into the Gold Cup in as good as form as Canada would be Jamaica, who are in tough coming out of their side of the bracket with the Panama and the US looming. While it is entirely possible they beat the US, I think Canada may end up being more equipped for doing so, due to more diverse attacking options. Lastly, Canada have proven to be versatile, playing different styles and having useful players all over the park. While the defence remains a question mark, if they can sort that out, no doubt they can give any team in this tournament a run for their money. So, because of that, I’ll drink the red Kool-Aid for this one.
Mexico will be feeling good after topping group A, and things will continue to go their way against a Haiti side who will battle hard, but ultimately find themselves outclassed.
In the other quarter-final in Houston, Canada will face Costa Rica. It should be a fantastic match between two talented and evenly matched teams, but I think that Canada’s cohesiveness will be the difference. Costa Rica, although fairly confident, is somewhat stagnant in terms of young players coming through. Canada, however, is clearly on the rise. Although the two sides meet while both being at a similar level, the team positivity and focus within the Canada party will top a side trying to figure out how to adapt to a new era.
In Philadelphia, Jamaica should have a tough match against 2018 World Cup participants, Panama. Both sides have their threats, but Jamaica is a team in better form at the moment. It will be a great win for Jamaica, and a launching pad for big things to come,
The United States will have their hands full against Honduras. Los Catrachos’ attacking threats are well documented. However, Greg Berhalter’s side will have enough composure and talent to top a plucky Honduras. Up until the semi-finals I don’t have any big upsets, but this is where it starts to get really interesting.
In the first semi-final, Canada will be pitted against Mexico in a rematch of their heated group A match up. Once again, the Mexicans will be victorious. In some tournaments, facing a team you’ve lost to can almost be an advantage since you know their strengths, but no matter how many players are dropped from their roster, Mexico always has the deepest squad in Concacaf and will have something ready to trouble Canada. Les Rouges will put in a remarkable effort, but ultimately be the less talented side.
Over in Nashville, the Reggae Boyz will square up against the Stars and Stripes. In a pre-tournament friendly, Jamaica beat the USA 1-0. Im predicting the same result this time around, with Jamaica causing the first major shock of the tournament. Theodore Whitmore has been at the Jamaica helm since 2016 and knows what it’s like to make it to the final of the Gold Cup, having beat Mexico in last tournament’s semifinals. The deciding factor here, however, will be stability. Jamaica has progressed well as a group over the last couple of years while the USA have been unsuccessfully trying to figure things out. It will be the United States causing their own demise as much as anything, but nonetheless, Jamaica will deservingly take the praise.
The final will be a rematch of the 2017 semi-final, where a very late free kick stunned El Tri. Whaddya know, Jamaica does it again. They will become only the fourth team ever to lift the Gold Cup in their third straight final. Mexico will have enough quality to win the match, but Jamaica know how to cause problems to any opponent and “Tata” Martino’s new side will not be able to handle the adversity. Remember, that although it is a very good Mexican team, it is not their first choice lineup and therefore the players haven’t played with each other all that much. Jamaica will be able to pounce on any uncertainty and shock a majoritarily Mexican crowd in Chicago.
Jamaica are definitely not favoured by many to win the tournament at the outset, but as it goes on, they will become more and more of a threat. The start at home will give them the needed confidence which will carry them through the group stage. In the knockout rounds, every game will be tough. At that point, only the best remain. It is no fluke, however, that they’ve made deep runs in their last couple attempts at Gold Cup glory. Jamaica doesn’t boast a squad with many high-profile players, but in tournament football, that’s not often what matters. That being said, keep an eye out for Bayer Leverkusen’s 21 year old Leon Bailey, having recently committed to Jamaica despite rumours of England calling. The Reggae Boyz have a squad perfect for upsetting the biggest teams. They know how to frustrate the opposition by staying organized and have perhaps the fastest forwards in the world, which will take advantage of any defenders caught out on the break. The difference this time around which will take them all the way is that they’re more settled as a squad and have the experience of playing in major finals.
While this tournament has traditionally been easy to predict, each edition more and more upsets have been starting to appear, giving more teams than ever a shot to win. This time around an added 4 teams will make it all the more interesting. While it is easy to suggest another US or Mexico win, teams such as Canada and Jamaica have a great shot to change things, giving a tournament to remember.
Here is to a great tournament!!
By: Alexandre Gangué-Ruzic and Felix Todd