Here I round up all of October’s action with women’s U-20 World Cup and Rio 2016 qualifying taking place, as well as beach soccer, U-15 football and various friendly matches…
CONCACAF Men’s Olympic Qualifying Championship (1-13 October)
Haiti and Cuba represented the Caribbean at the CONCACAF Men’s Olympic Qualifying Championship held in America after winning their respective semi-finals in August’s Caribbean qualifying process. This was just the second time Haiti had made an appearance at the Championship, while for Cuba this was their fifth appearance. Both teams finished 3rd in their groups, missing out on one of the top two positions which guaranteed progress to the knockout phase. While the Cubans were more vulnerable at the back – conceding nine goals, six to the USA – they showed a greater degree of attacking threat by scoring four. Highly rated striker Maykel Reyes opened his country’s account against Panama, Daniel Saez netted a late consolation goal in the heavy defeat to the USA and Arichel Hernandez bagged a brace in the final game against Canada, helping Cuba to a 2-2 draw. Some of these names might be familiar – that would be because this U-23 Cuban side made up most of the U-20s that qualified for the World Cup at that youth level two years ago. Despite the talent available to head coach Raul Gonzalez Triana, his squad could have been much stronger had six Cuban players not defected to the USA during the tournament. Five of the defections happened prior to the Panama game, too, leaving Triana with a depleted group of players to choose from. You can read about Cuban players and defection in greater depth here.
For Haiti, on the other hand, their problem wasn’t so much defensively but offensively. They only let in three in three yet scored just one, and that arrived in the last outing against Costa Rica, the only game from which the team picked up a point. Boss of the seniors, Marc Collat, took control for the tournament and he selected a predominantly domestic-based squad with four overseas inclusions. Zachary Herivaux (New England Revolution) and Stephane Lambese (Paris Saint-Germain) were the pick of the bunch. However, the young Les Grenadiers were simply outdone by the quality of Mexico and Honduras, who both went onto qualify for Rio next year.
SVB International U-15 Tournament (2-9 October)
The Curacao Soccer Academy continues to flourish after winning the inaugural Surinamese Voetbal Bond (SVB) International U-15 Tournament held in Paramaribo, Suriname. The Academy, which was created in 2012, prevailed over Feyenoord U-15s on penalties in the final. You can read more about the CSA’s work here.
Lucayan Beach Soccer Cup (9-11 October)
The Lucayan Beach Soccer Cup was a three-day tournament held at the Bahamas FA’s Beach Soccer and Futsal Facility, Malcolm Park. It featured three teams: the hosts, Trinidad & Tobago and Mexico. Ranked first in the Caribbean before the Cup kicked off, the Bahamas endured a miserable competition, losing both of their games. Captain Gavin Christie and speedy striker Lesly St. Fleur were the Rake and Scrape Boys’ key performers, notching three goals each. T&T beat heavy favourites Mexico 5-3 to take the Lucayan Cup title and send out a message of intent to the rest of CONCACAF’s beach soccer teams. The logistical and practical running of the event went successfully, which will please the Bahamas FA, with the island set to host the 2017 Beach Soccer World Cup. This will mark the first time in history that a Caribbean nation hosts a senior World Cup event.
CONCACAF Women’s U-20 Championship qualification (14-23 October)
Haiti, Jamaica and T&T secured their places at the CONCACAF Women’s U-20 Championship – to be played 3-13 December in Honduras later this year – after successfully navigating their way through the Caribbean qualifying phase. The final round was held in Port-au-Prince with hosts Haiti and Puerto Rico making the semi-finals from Group A and Jamaica and T&T advancing from Group B. Jamaica and Haiti won their semi-final ties meaning T&T faced Puerto Rico in the all-important third place playoff to decide who would be the third Caribbean representative at the Championship. Adriana Font’s early penalty put Puerto Rico ahead at the Stade Sylvio Cator before Chevonne John replied for the Soca Princesses. The game went to extra time and penalties with T&T just edging the shoot-out 4-3. A special mention for 16-year-old Nerilla Mondesir of Haiti, a precocious young talent who finished joint top-scorer with Jamaica’s Khadija Shaw in qualifying (4). She has already represented the seniors seven times and netted 12 goals which is an outstanding ratio.
FIFA-sanctioned friendlies (8-13 October)
Numerous Caribbean teams took advantage of the FIFA window in early October to maintain fitness by playing friendly matches. T&T arranged two friendlies: a trip to Panama and a home game with Nicaragua in Port of Spain. Manager Stephen Hart used these fixtures to aid his team’s preparations for the fourth round of 2018 WCQ, which kicks off in mid-November. The Soca Warriors came out of them well, earning an impressive victory over Panama and drawing to Nicaragua. T&T could potentially face Panama in the Hex should both sides qualify putting extra importance on that friendly. Haiti also played two friendlies for WCQ preparation, beating El Salvador 3-1 in Houston before following that up with a heavy loss, 5-1, to Brazil’s U-23s. They were outclassed against a young, vibrant Brazilian team in Manaus.
Dominican Republic also faced Brazil’s youngsters three days earlier and they lost by an even heavier scoreline, 6-0. They must try and take some value and benefit out of the experience, though, and analyse where they went wrong in order to improve for future outings. Finally, Jamaica disappointingly lost 3-0 to South Korea in Seoul. Head coach Winfried Schafer fielded an experimental starting eleven with fringe players Upson Edwards, Errol Stevens and Rosario Harriott featuring. None of those players are included in Jamaica’s WCQ squad which is indicative of Schafer’s experimental approach to that South Korea friendly.
By Nathan Carr