Gold Cup Preview: Group B
Group B: USA, Panama, Martinique, Nicaragua
Panama is looking to make some noise in the Gold Cup as they are the favorite to come second out of the group. Panama is currently 4th in the hex to qualify for the World Cup and if they continue to find success in the hex, their first ever bid to World Cup may become a reality. In the last 5 matches against the United States, their toughest competitor in Group B, they have reached a draw four out of the five last matches. It is important to point out that Panama is missing a key defender, Roman Torres, who will be staying with Seattle Sounders and potentially resting for World Cup Qualifying matches in September and October. Panama has the potential to reach the semi-finals. Their toughest competitor, the United States, will be a good test for Canaleros on Saturday with potential easy wins against Nicaragua and Martinique.
Prediction 2nd place for the group.
The United States has a new look and a new attitude. They are expected to be the number two favorite behind a Mexico team that came 4th in the Confederations Cup in Russia. The United States has not lost in the last 7 matches consisting of 3 friendlies and 4 World Cup Qualifying matches. Impressive, but the squad Bruce Arena has called up has 13 players with less than 10 caps. The goalkeeping and defense looks to be strong with veterans like goalkeeper Brad Guzan and defensive backs Matt Besler, Omar Gonzalez, and Graham Zusi. Up front though comes with a lot of new names the United States fan base has yet to see. This will give Arena the ability to see who can prove themselves and potentially try formations with different players as they prepare for the World Cup in 2018. Two up and coming players that will hopefully have an impact include Kellyn Acosta and Dax McCarthy who both play in the midfield. Both are looking to potentially compete for spots on the 23 man roster in 2018. Overall the United States should be strong in the back and hopefully finish chances
Prediction 1st place for the group and on to the finals.
Martinique is very similar to French Guiana where not many Americans know where the country is located. What we do know though is that recently they lost to two teams that are currently in Gold Cup, Curacao (winners of the Caribbean Cup) this past week and French Guiana who beat them in the third place match. Martinique has one advantage not many teams which has players that play together on the same club team including four players coming from Golden Lion de Saint-Joseph and six players coming from Club Franciscain. This chemistry could help compete with some of the better teams in the CONCAFCAF.
Prediction 4th place for the group stage
Nicaragua is ranked exactly 100 and has the potential to surpass the group stage for first time for the tournament. There last appearance was in 2009 when they were unable to register a point. Similar to Martinique many of the players come from one team Real Esteli FC. Goal scorers that may be problematic for other teams include forwards Raul Leguias and Carlos Chavarria. If Nicaragua can find points in a draw or even a win they could make it just out of the group stage and themselves in a third place quarterfinal match up.
Prediction 3rd place for the group stage potential quarterfinal contender.
Featured image courtesy of SportsIllustrated.com.