Winner – Mexico

Runner-up – Jamaica

Third – Panama

Fourth – USA

The 2015 Gold Cup was co-hosted by the USA and Canada, and saw criticism for the distance’]s teams had to travel for group games, the arrangements that saw more than one team travelling together and some controversial refereeing decisions that drew complaints about the standard of refereeing. There were also issues with Cuban players defecting to the USA during the tournament, with four of their squad leaving during the tournament.

It was also hosted in the aftermath of the FBI’s FIFAgate indictments that left Concacaf stripped of its president Jeff Webb and a host of other national federation leaders and executives. That the tournament took place at all was a testament to the commitment of Concacaf’s remaining executives, the leadership of Sunil Gulati (USA), Victor Montagliani (Canada) and Justino Compean (Mexico) and doubtless the co-operation of the US Justice Department.

Despite these issues, the tournament was still one of the biggest Gold Cups in history, with an average of over 41,000 fans per game and it produced some surprises along the way.

There was a slight change to the qualifying structure as the 5th place team in the Caribbean would face off against the 5th place team in Central America for the final place in the Gold Cup, with that team joining the three North American teams, top four Caribbean Cup teams and the top four Copa Centroamericana teams.

 

Caribbean Qualifying

The 2014 Caribbean Cup was scheduled to take place in Jamaica, with the Cubans joining the hosts as automatically qualifiers after winning the 2012 Caribbean Cup. Only five nations declined to enter the tournament, leaving six places available for 24 teams.

This meant three rounds of qualifying would take place, with the lowest seven ranked teams facing off in two groups, with the winners qualifying for the first round.

Group 1 was hosted by Montserrat, the first time they had hosted any part of a Caribbean Football Union organised competition. They started off with a 1-0 win over US Virgin Islands, before Bonaire beat the Virgin Islands team 2-1 to sit atop the group on goal difference. It came down to a final match between Bonaire and Montserrat, with the Dutch territory holding on to draw 0-0 with the hosts and qualify for the next round.

Group 2 was hosted by Aruba and they would end up in a final game shootout with French Guiana for the top spot after they beat Turks and Caicos Islands 1-0 and British Virgin Islands 7-0, while the Guianas recorded 6-0 wins over both sides. It was French Guiana who would progress through, beating Aruba 2-0.

The First round saw four groups of four teams, with the top two and the best 3rd placed team qualifying for the second round, where they would join 2012 Semi-finalists Guadeloupe, Haiti and Trinidad and Tobago.

Group 3 was hosted by Martinique and the hosts eased through to the Second round undefeated after winning their first two games. They beat Bonaire 6-0, then came from 2-0 down to beat Barbados 3-2 before a goalless draw with Suriname put them through as group winners.

Barbados were the best of the rest, having beaten Bonaire 4-1 in the final group game to put themselves ahead of the Dutch territory, while Suriname were left to regret their defeat to Bonaire as they finished second in the group.

Group 4 was hosted by Puerto Rico and was a tight group, with nothing decided until the final group games. Curacao showed their improvement from the previous Caribbean Cup by winning the group after drawing with Puerto Rico after coming from 2-0 down, beat Grenada 2-1, then won the group on goals scored with a 0-0 draw with French Guiana.

French Guiana were able to make their way through the group in second place after a 1-1 draw with Grenada and a 2-1 win over Puerto Rico, while Puerto Rico and Grenada cancelled each other out of potential qualification after a 2-2 draw in the final group game.

Group 5 was the group from which three qualifiers emerged. It was hosted by Antigua and Barbuda and it was the hosts who went through with three wins from three games, having beaten Anguilla 6-0, then coming from behind in both games to beat Dominican Republic and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 2-1, the latter after a last-minute Nathaniel Jarvis goal.

Saint Vincent won their first two games to assure their qualification, while Dominican Republic were left thankful for a 10-0 win over Anguilla, having lost their first two games, as this improved their goal difference exponentially and assure their qualification as the best 3rd placed team.

This qualification was assured after Group 6 in Saint Kitts and Nevis was concluded. The hosts and Saint Lucia qualified with ease when after drawing 0-0 with each other, Saint Kitts and Nevis beat Dominica 5-0 and Guyana 2-0 to top the group, while Saint Lucia beat Guyana 2-0 and Dominica 2-1 to qualify in second place, with Guyana in 3rd place, but with only one point from a 0-0 draw with Guyana.

The second round followed with the same format as the previous Caribbean Cup, with three groups of four teams and the top two teams qualifying.

Group 7 was hosted by Trinidad and Tobago and they qualified with little trouble, winning all three games to qualify for another Caribbean Cup. They started with a 6-1 win over Dominican Republic, then beat Saint Lucia 2-0 and Antigua and Barbuda 1-0 to ease through. It was the Antiguans who sealed the second qualification place on goal difference, having beaten Saint Lucia 2-1 before a goalless draw with Dominican Republic and the defeat against the hosts. The Dominicans were left to rue their heavy defeat against the hosts as it gave them too much to do against Saint Lucia, with a 3-2 defeat not enough.

Group 8 was a close group, where every team was in contention for a qualification spot up to and including the final group games.

Barbados started off with a 3-2 win against Saint Kitts and Nevis, but failed to win another game and finished bottom of the group after losing 4-2 to Haiti and 2-0 to French Guiana, while Saint Kitts were left to regret that game against Barbados as although they then beat French Guiana 2-1, their 0-0 draw with Haiti left them behind French Guiana on goal difference, with Haiti topping the group after staying undefeated in the group.

Group 9 was held in Guadeloupe and saw qualification in the balance right up to the final minute.

Martinique managed to win the group undefeated, but had to battle to each result. They were held to a 1-1 draw with Curacao after Curacao equalised in the last minute, beat Guadeloupe 2-1, then were left thankful for two Julien Faubert goals in the last 10 minutes that helped them secure a 4-3 win over Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

It was a result that put the Saint Vincentians out bottom of the group and left the final group game between Guadeloupe and Curacao as the second-place decider. Curacao had drawn with Martinique and lost to Saint Vincent, while Guadeloupe were on three points after beating Saint Vincent, but losing to Martinique. This game looked to be going all the way to a goalless draw that would put the hosts through to the finals, only for Curacao to break Guadeloupean hearts with a Vidarrell Merencia goal in the second minute of stoppage time for the goal that put Curacao through.

The finals tournament took a different format to previous tournaments, with no Semi-final stage taking place. Instead, the top two teams would qualify for the final, the second-place teams would play off for 3rd, while the best 3rd place team in either group would go onto the playoff with the 5th place Central American team.

Group A featured the defending champions Cuba alongside Trinidad and Tobago, French Guiana and tournament newcomers Curacao. It came down to a final game between Cuba and Trinidad and Tobago after the Trinidadians had beaten Curacao 3-2 and French Guiana 4-2, while Cuba were two points behind after being held to a 1-1 draw by French Guiana after a last minute Guianan equaliser, while they were the beneficiary of an Orisbel Leiva goal in the fifth minute of stoppage time to beat Curacao 3-2.

With so much at stake, it was no surprise that the game was a tense and tight goalless draw that put Trinidad and Tobago through to the final, with Cuba in the 3rd place match, but at least consoled by the qualification for the Gold Cup, while French Guiana secured 3rd place with a 4-1 win against Curacao that put them into the playoff with the Central American team.

Group B was just as close between the top two teams, with Jamaica and Haiti facing off for the final spot after a draw and a win in the first two group games, Jamaica drawing 1-1 with Martinique and beating Antigua and Barbuda 3-0, while Haiti drew 2-2 with the Antiguans and beat Martinique 3-0, giving both teams qualification for the Gold Cup and a chance of the final.

Unlike Group A, the final group game between the top two was a much more open affair and went the way of the Jamaicans with two goals in the opening 20 minutes leaving Haiti with too much to do and Jamaica cruised to the final with Trinidad and Tobago with a 2-0 win. Martinique finished 3rd in the group, but a negative goal difference saw them finish behind French Guiana in the rankings.

Haiti was able to gain some minor consolation when they beat Cuba 2-1 in the 3rd place playoff, which set the scene for the showpiece final between Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago.

Sadly, the game failed to live up to expectations and produced a game of few chances as neither side could break down the defence of the other side. The game produced no goals in normal or extra time and finished goalless, necessitating a penalty contest to decide the Caribbean champions.

Both teams missed a penalty before Rodolph Austin scored his to leave Khaleem Hyland needing to score to keep the contest going. He didn’t succeed, firing over the bar to give Jamaica their sixth Caribbean Cup 4-3 on penalties.

 

Central American Qualifying

The 2014 Copa Centroamericana was hosted, for the first time, by the USA, with Washington, Dallas and Houston hosting group games and the LA Memorial Coliseum hosting the fifth-place playoff, third place playoff and final.

As with the Caribbean Cup, no Semi-finals took place. The top two teams in each group qualified for the Gold Cup, with the top two making the final and the two second placed teams playing in the 3rd place playoff.

Group A saw a surprise as Guatemala rose from the doldrums to win the group with three wins from three games, winning 2-1 against El Salvador and Belize, then beating Honduras 2-0 to win the group. That defeat for Honduras put them into the fifth-place playoff as they finished 3rd in the group behind El Salvador, who lost their match with Guatemala, but then beat their historic rivals 1-0 and secured a Gold Cup spot with a 2-0 win over Belize.

Group B was a lot closer, with the spot in the final going down to the final match between Panama and Nicaragua. Costa Rica had started the group with a 3-0 win over Nicaragua, then come back from 2-0 down to secure a 2-2 draw with Panama, leaving the Panamanians needing a three-goal win over Nicaragua to win the group.

Despite their best efforts, scoring two goals in two minutes late on, they couldn’t find that third goal and Costa Rica qualified for the final on goal difference, with Panama facing El Salvador for 3rd place.

In the LA Memorial Coliseum, Honduras kicked off the day’s action with a 1-0 win over Nicaragua that secured their place in a playoff against French Guiana for the last place in the Gold Cup, while Panama scored early and hung on to beat El Salvador 1-0 and clinch 3rd place.

With these games done, Guatemala and Costa Rica played in the final, with one side looking for their first Central American title, the other for their eighth, and it was the first-time finalists who took the lead when Carlos Ruis scored a penalty on 25 minutes.

Costa Rica worked their way back into the game and Bryan Ruiz equalised just four minutes later. Their experience in finals told and Juan Bustos scored what proved to be the winner after 56 minutes, with Costa Rica winning their eighth title with a 2-1 win.

The final place in the Gold Cup was played over two dramatic and goal-filled legs between French Guiana and Honduras. The Guianans won the first leg in Cayenne 3-1 after coming from behind, but that Jerry Bengtson goal proved vital as Honduras won the second leg 3-0, having scored all three goals within 15 minutes of each other, to win 4-3 on aggregate.

 

Finals Tournament

14 venues were used in the finals tournament, an increase from the last tournament, with Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia selected to host the final, with nine stadiums hosting group games, East Rutherford and Baltimore hosting two Quarter-finals each, Atlanta hosting the Semi-Finals and the re-inserted 3rd place playoff being played in Chester in Pennsylvania.

The Group structure and qualification process remained the same, with the two best 3rd place teams qualifying alongside the top two from the three groups.

Group A featured the hosts alongside Haiti, Honduras and Panama. It started in Frisco with Panama drawing 1-1 with Haiti, while the USA opened their tournament account with two Clint Dempsey goals helping beat Honduras 2-1.

The next round of games took the group to Foxborough, where Panama recorded their second draw of the tournament with a 1-1 draw that left Honduras on the edge of elimination, while Clint Dempsey scored his third goal of the tournament as the USA won 1-0 against Haiti, a win that secured their qualification for the Quarter-finals.

In the final group matches in Kansas City, Haiti beat Honduras through a Duckens Nazon goal early on for a 1-0 win, while Panama managed to draw their third game of the group when they drew 1-1 with the USA, leaving them third in the group and able to qualify as one of the best 3rd placed teams.

Group B saw one team lead the way and the other three teams fighting for the last qualifying spot.

Jamaica won the group after remaining undefeated with two wins and a draw, having opened their tournament in Carson with a 2-2 draw with Costa Rica, then beating the Canadians 1-0 in Houston after a Rodolph Austin goal in the 90th minute, before Garath McCleary’s goal won the final group game in Toronto against El Salvador.

None of the other teams in the group won a match, with Costa Rica finishing second as a result of drawing all three games, while El Salvador and Canada both drew with each other, then with Costa Rica. El Salvador finished 3rd in the group by virtue of their one goal scored against Costa Rica, but they were not going to qualify for the Quarter-finals with just two tournament points.

Group C produced some of the best games of the tournament and a lot of goals scored.

It started in Soldier Field in Chicago and saw 10 goals scored in the two games, with Trinidad and Tobago scoring three goals in the first 25 minutes to win the game 3-1 against Guatemala, then Oribe Peralta’s hat-trick was the highlight of a 6-0 win for Mexico over Cuba, who only 16 players available after issues with getting US visas for six players and the head coach Raul Triana and the defection of Keller Garcia.

Cuba were then hit by another player loss after Arael Arguellez defected before the second group game in Phoenix against Trinidad and Tobago, which the Trinidadians won 2-0 to secure their Quarter-final place and, seemingly, consign Cuba to an early exit. Guatemala and Mexico then played out a dull 0-0 draw that aided Mexico’s progress through to the Quarter-finals and left Guatemala needing a win against Cuba to find their way into the Quarter-finals.

Despite further player issues, with Dario Suarez disappearing before the game against Guatemala, then Ariel Martinez running from the team bus after the game in Charlotte, Cuba managed to salvage their tournament with a 1-0 win that put them through as one of the best two 3rd placed teams, despite only scoring one goal in the group.

Trinidad and Tobago and Mexico then played out one of the highest scoring and craziest games in Gold Cup history, with the lead changing three times and Trinidad and Tobago coming back from 2-0 and 4-3 down to draw 4-4, with Yohance Marshall equalising in the third minute of stoppage time, only minutes after Kenwyne Jones had put through his own net.

The Quarter-finals began with two games at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore and saw historic rivals the USA and Cuba face off in the first game. Cuba had been through the emotional ringer throughout the tournament, with players defecting to the USA and other players unable to play in the tournament after visa issues.

Their tournament had started with a 6-0 defeat and so it ended, as a Clint Dempsey hat-trick a major contribution towards a USA 6-0 win that sent them through to another Gold Cup Semi-final.

The other game in Baltimore featured an all-Caribbean battle as Haiti took on Group B winners Jamaica. Whereas the first Quarter-final was a goal-fest, this game was a lot closer, with Giles Barnes goal after six minutes for Jamaica proving to be enough for the Jamaicans to go through 1-0.

The next day saw both Quarter-finals take place at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford and saw drama and controversy abound.

The first game saw Trinidad and Tobago take on Panama. With so much at stake, both sides would have been forgiven for taking a cautious approach. However, this didn’t happen and both sides attacked with gusto, producing chance after chance, with Luis Tejada taking one to put Panama ahead after 36 minutes.

Trinidad and Tobago were not to be held out though and Kenwyne Jones equalised on 53 minutes. The game went on with chances coming and going, but no goals were scored during the rest of normal time or extra time, so penalties would decide the next Semi-finalist.

It was a nervy shootout, with each team missing two of their first five penalties, then Alberto Quintero and Daneil Cyrus both missing an opportunity to win the game when they missed the seventh penalty for each side. Eventually, Valentin Pimentel slotted home his penalty to put Panama in front, then Lester Peltier’s penalty was tipped onto the crossbar by Jaime Penedo, winning the game for Panama 6-5 on penalties.

The final Quarter-final was between Mexico and Costa Rica and was not an exciting game for the most part, with both teams playing defensively and the game looking destined for a penalty contest after finishing 0-0 in normal time.

However, Mexico were then awarded a controversial last-minute penalty when the assistant referee signalled for a push by Roy Miller on Oribe Peralta. Despite furious Costa Rican protests, the penalty stood and Andres Guardado scored to put Mexico through 1-0.

The Georgia Dome in Atlanta hosted the two Semi-finals and saw two games with drama aplenty and one of the big shocks in Gold Cup history.

The first Semi-final featured the hosts up against the Caribbean champions as the USA took on Jamaica. The USA were strongly favoured to progress to another Gold Cup final, but the Jamaicans had not turned up to be also rans and they shocked the favourites with two goals in five minutes through Darren Mattocks’ looping header and a stunning free-kick from Giles Barnes.

This two goal haul had rocked the hosts and stunned the crowd and although Michael Bradley reduced the arrears with a tap in after Ryan Thompson fumbled a shot by Landon Donovan, the Jamaicans put in a supreme effort in defence and held on to secure a shock 2-1 win that made them the first Caribbean nation to make the Gold Cup final.

The second Semi-final brought Panama up against Mexico and despite losing Luis Tejeda in the 24th minute to a questionable red card, it looked like Panama would pull off the second shock of the day when Roman Torres put Panama ahead on 57 minutes with a header from a corner.

Unfortunately, a controversial penalty was given in the 90th minute for a handball by Torres, who had been defending in the penalty area, but lost balance and fell backwards onto the ball. The Panamanians, incensed by the decision, walked off the pitch and threatened to abandon the game, getting into a very heated argument with the officials, coaches and other players on the side-line.

It took a full 10 minutes for order to be restored and Panama to re-enter the field and for the penalty to be taken, which Andres Guardado stayed cool to score.

This took the game to extra time, which Mexico began to dominate as Panamanian heads were still thinking about the late penalty. Their mood got worse when Jiminez was fouled and another penalty was awarded to Mexico in the 105th minute, with Guardado slotting home his third penalty in two games.

This proved to be the goal that clinched Mexico’s place in the final with 2-1 the final score. After the final whistle, Panamanian tempers boiled over and virtually the whole squad and coaching staff surrounded the referee Marc Geiger, necessitating the need for security staff to escort him off the field. Post-match, the Panamanian squad reunited in their changing room and brandished a banner which read “CONCACAF Ladrones (“CONCACAF thieves”) and three times “Corruptos” (“corrupt”), while pointing thumbs down in protest. The Panamanian federation were later finished $15,000 for this protest.

Panama would have to pick themselves up for the 3rd place playoff against the USA in Chester. Again, they took the lead when Roberto Nurse scored after 55 minutes, but were pegged back by Clint Dempsey’s 7th goal of the tournament 15 minutes later. The game petered out to walking pace and went to extra time and penalties, which Panama won after the USA missed their last three penalties, with DaMarcus Beasley missing the last to give Panama a 3-2 win and 3rd place, although it was little consolation after the controversies of their Semi-final.

Their Semi-final conquerors Mexico had been the beneficiaries of some questionable refereeing decisions in the tournament, but had managed to win through to the final against a new finalist in Jamaica.

This game drew a capacity crowd to Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia and they were treated to a very competitive final, with both sides coming close early on as a Barnes freekick flashed wide for Jamaica and Ryan Thompson turning a header from Jesus Corona wide.

Mexico began to control the game and fashioned a couple of good chances to Corona, and finally took the lead from a volley inside the area by Guardado after 31 minutes.

Jamaica tried to battle back, with Barnes and Simon Dawkins having half chances, but Mexico extended their lead just after halftime when Wes Morgan was disposed by Corona, the forward jinked forward and fired a low drive under Thompson.

A difficult job for Jamaica then became impossible when a low cross by Paul Aguilar fell between Michael Hector’s feet and Oribe Peralta was given enough space to slot home the third for Mexico.

Darren Mattocks got one back for Jamaica when he stepped inside and fired in a low drive after 78 minutes, but this proved merely a consolation for Jamaica as Mexico held on to win their seventh Gold Cup. The journey had been controversial, but the final act had been clinical and the win well deserved.

Grp AWDLFAPts
Mexico100703
Canada100403
Martinique000040
Cuba001070
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Costa Rica
Nicaragua
Haiti
Bermuda
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El Salvador
Honduras
Jamaica
Curaçao
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United States
Trinindad
Panama
Guyana

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