June 30 – The US and Curacao will decide the final slot in 2019 Gold Cup semi finals when they meet at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia on tonight.
It is the first time the two teams have every played each other and is a classic David vs Goliath encounter. A nation of 327 million playing a Caribbean island of just 160,000.
Curacao is getting used to giantkilling. They beat regional powerhouses Honduras and followed that up with a last minute goal against Jamaica to qualify for the knockout rounds. In 2017 their Gold Cup campaign saw three 2-0 losses. They have progressed and Gregg Berhalter is under no illusion that while this should be a straightforward encounter, Curacao have proved they can be a trip wire that it is easily to fall over.
The US have yet to concede a goal this tournament, Curacao don’t score many, but they do when it counts. Curacao coach Remko Bicentini, who took over from Patrick Kluivert in 2016, has a simple philosophy. You only need to score one to win. It has worked so far, though not without a large amount of luck.
Curacao defender Jurien Gaari, who belted in the equaliser from distance to tie the score 1-1 in the 93rd minute against Jamaica, and effectively secure qualification, said of the US match: “This means everything,” said Gaari post-game. “This is unbelievable. It’s a beautiful thing for this team and for our island.”
Curacao have nothing to lose. The US have everything to lose and will not want a repeat of World Cup 2018 qualifying when they slipped up on the banana skin of an away game to Trinidad and Tobago. For their final group game Berhalter switched all 11 players. He will likely bring the majority of his first 11 back and will not be looking to be the spare part at someone else’s romantic adventure.
Jamaica vs Panama
Opening play in the second of the quarter final match-ups are Panama and Jamaica in what will be a contrast in footballing styles.
Panama manager Julio Dely Valdes said: “I have a great deal of respect for this Jamaica team, and we know what we have to do to win this game.”
Panama have already beaten Caribbean opposition with a 2-0 win over Trinidad and Tobago followed by a 4-2 victory over Guyana. That was followed by a tight 1-0 loss to the US.
“We have been improving as the tournament has progressed,” the Dely Valdes said. “We played important friendlies before the competition, and we are no longer seeing some of the mistakes that we saw in those games. We have been improving as a team and we are confident in ourselves.”
After his opening comments, Dely Valdes was asked a few more times about Sunday’s opponent, and what Jamaica is going to bring to the table.
“Honestly, I care more about what our team is doing than what Jamaica is doing. We’ve seen what we need to see and have gotten ourselves prepared. Now it’s about us being ready when the game starts on Sunday.”
Being prepares for what though. Jamaica can be as unpredictable as they are mercurial. With speed and power in abundance, so comes a habit of missing simple chances in front of goal. Having opened with an adrenalin pumping 3-2 win over Honduras in Kingston, they then drew with El Salvador before letting Curacao back into the tournament with a last minute goal against.
“We have a lot of work left to do,” said Jamaica GK Andre Blake. “But the important thing is that we are through to the next round. We have some time to get things right, and we now we need to be a lot better for the next game.”
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