Gold Cup 2002
Winner – USA
Runner-up – Costa Rica
Third – Canada
Fourth – South Korea
12 team tournament with South Korea and Ecuador as guests
The 2002 Gold Cup continued with the format established in 2000, with 12 teams divided into three four-team groups, with the tournament taking place at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena and the Orange Bowl in Miami.
As with 2000, there were teams invited to compete, with South Korea returning from Asia and Ecuador the representatives of South America, which left 10 places for Concacaf nations.
All three North American zone teams qualified, with the USA as hosts and Canada as holders, while the top three Caribbean Cup nations and top three UNCAF Nations Cup nations would also qualify. Additionally, the winner of a qualifying playoff would gain the final place in the Gold Cup.
The 2001 Caribbean Cup was held in Trinidad and Tobago, with the hosts and Jamaica qualifying automatically. This left six places up for grabs for the 22 nations that entered.
A preliminary round between the lowest ranked nations allowed Saint-Martin, British Virgin Islands and US Virgin Islands to progress through to the main qualifying round, separated into five groups with the top team and best runner-up qualifying for the finals.
In Group 1, the Cubans showed their intent to become Caribbean Champions by coming through the group unbeaten, beating Dominica 3-1, holding on to draw with Saint-Martin, then beating the hosts of the group Guyana 2-1 in the group decider.
Group 2 was dominated by Martinique who, like the Cubans, stayed undefeated after their group games. A 3-0 win over Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and 6-0 over British Virgin Islands put them through, with a 1-1 draw with Cayman Islands confirming top spot.
Group 3 was hosted by Haiti and was dominated by the hosts, who won all three games ahead of Saint Lucia, Guadeloupe and US Virgin Islands. For the US Virgin Islands, their experience was a brutal one after losing all three games and conceding 37 goals.
Group 4 was reduced to three teams with the withdrawal of Bermuda and saw Saint Kitts and Nevis emerge top of the group with two wins out of two after a last minute 2-1 victory over Dominican Republic and a clinical 3-0 win over Antigua and Barbuda.
Group 5 was the group that saw two teams qualify for the finals tournament as Suriname and Barbados stayed undefeated to finish level on seven points after wins over Aruba and Grenada, with Suriname winning the group on goal difference.
It proved to be as good as it got for both Group 5 teams as they proceeded to finish bottom of their groups in Trinidad and Tobago. Barbados lost all three games to finish to bottom of Group 1, which went to goal difference to decide the qualifiers after Trinidad and Tobago, Martinique and Jamaica each won two games and lost one. Jamaica were the unlucky team to be eliminated, missing out by one goal, with the hosts winning the group and Martinique finishing second.
In Group 2, there were some big scores, with Cuba and Suriname sharing seven goals and Haiti beating Saint Kitts and Nevis 7-2. The Haitians and Cubans shared top spot with five points each, Haiti topping the group on goal difference, with Saint Kitts 4-0 win over Suriname merely a consolation.
The Semi-finals brought two decisive victories as Trinidad and Tobago made yet another Caribbean Cup final with a 2-0 win against Cuba, while Haiti showed their growing potential with a five-goal thrashing of Martinique.
Martinique secured a place in the Gold Cup with a 1-0 win over Cuba in the 3rd place playoff, meaning they would join Trinidad and Tobago and Haiti in the USA, with Trinidad going into the Gold Cup as Caribbean Champions for the eighth time after a 3-0 win.
Central America Qualifying
The 2001 UNCAF Nations Cup took place in Honduras and, for the first time, all seven UNCAF Nations competed. Group 1 had four teams and saw El Salvador top the group ahead of Panama, with the hosts unlucky to crash out in third. Nicaragua finished bottom and struggled throughout, a 10-2 defeat by Honduras the lowest point of their tournament.
Group 2 saw Costa Rica emerge undefeated after a 4-0 against Belize and a 1-1 draw with Guatemala, who qualified in second place after sharing six goals with Belize.
This brought the four teams together in the final round, with the top three qualifying for the Gold Cup and the fourth placed team entering a playoff with the Cubans for the final place.
Costa Rica as previous winners were favoured to win the competition, but they were to be shocked by the Guatemalans, who beat the Costa Ricans in the second game after a goalless draw against El Salvador, then secured their first ever UNCAF Nations Cup with a 3-1 win over Panama.
Costa Rica took second after recording four points, while El Salvador finished third after drawing all three games and Panama finished bottom of the group, necessitating a playoff with Cuba for the final Gold Cup space.
The final place was played out over two legs between Panama and Cuba and, with so much at stake, produced two tense games with just the one goal, a Serguei Prado goal in the second leg putting the Cubans through to the Gold Cup.
With all tournament places sorted out, the 12 teams descended on California and Florida, with Groups A and B playing their games at the Rose Bowl and Groups C and D being hosted by the Orange Bowl.
Group A brought tournament favourites Mexico together with El Salvador and UNCAF Nations Cup winners Guatemala. With the World Cup in the horizon, it was a time for Mexico to show where they were in preparation for Japan and South Korea and they won the group with a 1-0 win over El Salvador and a 3-1 win over Guatemala, with the Salvadorians winning the battle for second place with a 1-0 win over Guatemala.
Group B brought the hosts into action with invitees South Korea, preparing for their own World Cup, and Cuba. The Americans would be part of the World Cup later in the year as well and the Gold Cup was an excellent opportunity for bragging rights ahead of that summer.
They started with a closely fought win over South Korea, only winning through a last-minute DeMarcus Beasley goal in a 2-1 win. Two days later, they secured top spot with a 1-0 win over Cuba, who were unlucky to finish bottom of the group after a goalless draw with South Korea that put the Koreans through on goals scored. It later emerged that Cuban players Alberto Delgado and Rey Angel Martinez had left their team hotel during the tournament and had defected to the United States.
Group C was a closer affair inside the Orange Bowl, with Costa Rica, preparing for the World Cup, winning the group after a 2-0 win over Martinique and a 1-1 draw with Trinidad and Tobago. The Trinidadians had their destiny in their own hands after a Stern John goal in the 90th minute saved them against Costa Rica, but the Caribbean Champions fell to a 1-0 defeat by Martinique and went out bottom of the group.
Group D was the closest of the lot as holders Canada, Haiti and invitees Ecuador, the final World Cup entrants in the Gold Cup, all contrived to win a game 2-0 and lose a game 2-0 as Canada beat Haiti, Haiti beat Ecuador and Ecuador beat Canada.
It left the group all square on points, goal difference, goals scored and results, so all three teams were left in the hands of a coin-toss. Canada had benefitted from this in 2000 and were the lucky ones again, emerging from the coin-tosses as winners of the group alongside the Haitians, with Ecuador the unlucky team in third place.
The Quarter-finals saw the first two played in the Orange bowl, with Costa Rica and Haiti looking for their first Semi-final. Costa Rica struck first after just two minutes from a Walter Centeno low drive from outside the box, but Haiti were not overawed by the occasion and equalised just after an hour from a Golman Pierre goal.
Chances came and went, but the game ended 1-1 after 90 minutes, necessitating golden goal extra time. One team would end up with broken hearts and it proved to be the Haitians as Ronald Gomez was granted enough space to score after just seven minutes of the first period and send Costa Rica through.
The other Quarter-final proved to be just as tense and dramatic, bringing the holders Canada together with the outsiders Martinique. It looked like the Islanders would cause a shock when Mark Rogers put through his own net to give Martinique the lead, but Kevin McKenna headed home the equaliser 10 minutes later and, after 90 minutes and 30 minutes of golden goal extra time, the game finished 1-1 and penalties were required.
It looked like Martinique would be on their way to the Semi-finals when Jim Brennan put his penalty wide for Canada, but that proved to be the last penalty Canada would miss, while Fabrice Reuperne hit the post with his penalty, then Pascal Lina put his wide, giving Jason Bent the chance to win the game for Canada, which he did with a cool finish.
Penalties also decided the fate of the third Quarterfinal in the Rose Bowl as Mexico and South Korea played out a very forgettable contest, with only a few chances for each side over the whole 120 minutes. It brought up a penalty shootout, with each side scoring their first two penalties.
Lee Woon-Jae then became the hero of the piece for South Korea, making smart saves from Alfonso Sosa and Igancio Hierro to set up Lee Young-Pyo for the winning penalty that sent South Korea through and put Mexico out in the Quarter-finals for the second successive Gold Cup.
The tournament hosts played out the fourth Quarterfinal against El Salvador following the exit of the Mexicans. Of the four Quarterfinals, this was the one that was the least of a contest as the Americans dominated throughout, with Brian McBride ending the game as a contest after just 21 minutes after scoring a hat-trick in 12 minutes. Ante Razov got one more in the second half and the USA cruised to a 4-0 win over an out-matched El Salvador team.
This set up two high-profile Semi-finals in the Rose Bowl, with some unfancied teams looking at a final place, with Costa Rica taking on South Korea in the first Semi-final.
The Costa Ricans dealt better with the pressure of the situation and lead 1-0 after the first half from a Ronald Gomez goal. Paul Wanchope then increased the lead after 77 minutes and although Choi Jin-Cheul got one back, Wanchope then responded straight away to make the game safe and put Costa Rica through 3-1.
They would face the winner of the holders vs the hosts as Canada and the USA emerge for the second Semi-final. It promised much, but didn’t deliver as the two sides struggled to break down the defences on either side.
120 minutes produced no goals and little excitement, so penalties would provide a winner and a place in the 2002 Gold Cup final. Kevin McKenna missed the first Canadian penalty when he hit his penalty straight at Kasey Keller and, after the Americans had scored all four of their penalty kicks, Keller was the hero again with a lunge to the right saving Tamandani Nsaliwa’s spot-kick, putting the USA through to their first final since 1998.
Canada gained some consolation with a 2-1 win in the 3rd place playoff against South Korea, before the USA stepped out with 1st time finalists Costa Rica for the big game, looking for their first Gold Cup win since 1991.
Both teams made early chances on a hot afternoon in Los Angeles, but it was the Americans who got the vital first goal when a Landon Donovan pass put Josh Wolff through and he put it past the on-rushing Erick Lonnis to put the USA ahead.
The second half produced more of the same as the USA made more chances and threatened the Costa Rican defence on a regular basis. A second goal seemed inevitable and so it proved when after Brian McBride was fouled on the edge of the area, Jeff Agoos hit a low, swerving free-kick to make it 2-0.
The game petered out at the point as the Americans held on to a comfortable lead to win 2-0 and win only their second Gold Cup. Costa Rica had worked hard to get to the final and shown their potential, but they fell to a very good USA side.