Rounding up the latest Gold Cup news and updates regarding the Caribbean nations…
So we’re eight days into the Gold Cup here in the United States with two rounds of group play having been played. Here’s an update on how all four Caribbean sides have been getting on so far, beginning with one of , if not the biggest talking points from the tournament.
French Guiana punished for fielding ‘ineligible’ Florent Malouda
Right, where do we begin with the Florent Malouda ineligibility story? It’s fair to say quite a bit has happened over the last week. I’m going to do my best to break it all down in bullet point form.
- French Guiana manager Jair Karam wanted to use Florent Malouda in a playing capacity for the Gold Cup. Malouda represented France 80 times having made his Les Bleus debut in 2004, but qualifies for French Guiana because he was born in the country’s capital, Cayenne.
- Malouda was included in the preliminary 40-man squad and final 23-man squad for French Guiana, both announced to the public last month. This was after playing for French Guiana in a friendly against Barbados and in the Caribbean Cup staged in Martinique. In the Caribbean Cup, he played every minute and there were no problems.
- On the eve of French Guiana’s opening match against Canada, CONCACAF revealed that Malouda would not be able to play (or, rather, there would be no stopping him entering the pitch and kicking a ball, but a punishment would follow if he did so).
- Why would he not be able to play? Because CONCACAF said they’re using FIFA rules and regulations for this year’s tournament meaning Malouda is down as cap-tied for France, who he previously represented at international level in World Cups and European Championships. The confederation’s president, Victor Montagliani, said in a press conference at Red Bull Arena that ‘the rules are very clear’.
- So, with this in mind, French Guiana reluctantly left Malouda out of their matchday squad for the Canada match, which they lost 4-2.
- But in their game with Honduras, Karam decided to bring Malouda back in and start him. Not only start him, in fact, but make him captain as well. Karam justified his decision to do this by explaining that French Guiana are not affiliated to FIFA – so CONCACAF’s use of FIFA rules and regulations doesn’t apply to them. See quotes below from Karam after drawing to Honduras (taken from American journalist Jonathan Tannenwald’s Twitter feed).
- Malouda played the full 90 in a 0-0 draw with Honduras. After full-time, the Honduran management team launched an official protest against the inclusion of Malouda and CONCACAF soon released a statement stating they’d take the matter to their Disciplinary Committee to review.
- On Friday (today), CONCACAF announced they’d come to a decision having reviewed the matter and delivered the following sanctions and fines which you can see below.
- So, that 0-0 draw has turned into a 3-0 defeat meaning French Guiana have zero points and Honduras move up onto three with Canada and Costa Rica on four. A 3-0 loss is certainly not reflective of how the match went in terms of the football played, as Yana Doko should have put away numerous chances and made the defending Central American champions look average at times.
- The fine is undisclosed so it’s not clear exactly how much French Guiana will have to pay as a consequence of fielding Malouda. And, finally, Malouda has been dealt a two-match official suspension plus a concurrent stadium ban meaning he won’t be able to support his teammates from inside the stadium.
- Costa Rica are French Guiana’s final group opponents as the pair meet at Toyota Stadium in Frisco on Friday evening.
- Reacting to the verdict, the Ligue de Football de la Guyane posted a response on their official Facebook page. They accused CONCACAF of ‘imperialism’ and that not being a FIFA member means they are without the rights that other countries enjoy.
- It remains to be seen whether or not the LFG will make an appeal or just accept CONCACAF’s verdict. The likelihood is that any appeal would be quashed by CONCACAF, who ultimately have more control over the tournament and who plays and who doesn’t.
- On a side note, you may remember that former French international Jocelyn Angloma played for the country of his birth, Guadeloupe (another non-FIFA nation), in the 2007 Gold Cup when the Gwada Boys famously reached the semi-finals.
- Angloma donned the Les Bleus shirt throughout the 1990s, making the 1992 and 1996 squads for the European Championships. He came out of retirement to represent Guadeloupe in 2007 – 10 years after making his final France appearance – and there were no problems concerning his eligibility. Back then, it seems, CONCACAF used their own rules and regulations whereas this year FIFA rules and regulations are in place.
Martinique’s destiny is in their own hands
Martinique have been one of the biggest surprise packages of the tournament so far. A surprise in the sense that they underwhelmed at the Caribbean Cup – coming in last place on home soil – and their squad is missing some French-based professionals such as Julien Faubert, Jean-Sylvain Babin and Dominique Pandor. They’ve put themselves in a very good position to qualify for the quarter-finals for the first time since 2002, though, having beaten Nicaragua to start off with before making the United States work hard for a tight 3-2 victory. Granted, this American squad is not at full-strength but their players are spread across predominantly MLS and professional leagues in Mexico and Europe. Les Matinino have played with heart and determination and scored some really nice goals, too. Steeven Langil’s solo run and finish versus Nicaragua springs to mind, as well as Kevin Parsemain’s first goal past Brad Guzan. In order to finish in the top two, they have to beat Panama which would be no mean feat. A draw would give them four points overall and their goal difference (+1) is superior to El Salvador’s (0) and inferior to Honduras’ (+2) after they were awarded that 3-0 victory over French Guiana. Depending on how results go in Group A and Group C, Martinique stand a decent chance of qualifying as one of the two best third-placed teams.
MLS additions have helped Reggae Boyz
Jamaica – Mexico on Thursday night will definitely not feature on one of the Gold Cup’s greatest ever matches DVDs, that’s for sure. A defensively well organised Jamaican side fought hard to earn a valuable point against the defending champions in high altitude in Denver, though, putting them on four points overall and thus in prime position to advance to the last eight. It wasn’t glamorous but results are what matter at the end of the day. In both games they restricted their opponents to minimal chances on goal, although they’ve not created a great deal at the other end either. You’d have to imagine the Reggae Boyz playing a little more adventurously against El Salvador, although Theodore Whitmore will know that even a draw would assure them of an automatic qualifying spot. Perhaps he’ll switch back to a two-man attack with Darren Mattocks expected to keep his place and one of Romario Williams, Jermaine Johnson, Shamar Nichsolson or Owayne Gordon capable of partnering him (Cory Burke was stretchered off in the Mexico game). As Simon Preston pointed out, the Jamaicans have not lost to El Salvador in seventeen years. The MLS additions who missed the Caribbean Cup have made noticeable contributions, particularly at the back with a backline of Blake-Powell-Taylor-Lowe-Lawrence providing a more solid defensive backbone. Repeating what they did in 2015 would be a very tall order but football is full of surprises after all.
Disappointment for inexperienced Curacao
Perhaps I set the bar a bit too high for recently crowned Caribbean Cup champions Curacao. Two games gone, two defeats. Four goals conceded, zero scored. Their opener against Jamaica promised to be an intriguing battle given this was a repeat of the Caribbean Cup final. In what was a poor spectacle, Curacao edged it in the first half but didn’t show enough urgency or intensity overall as Jamaica scored two second half goals to avenge their defeat from last month. Not the start they were looking for, but with El Salvador on the horizon, there was no time for sulking. Cuco Martina having to leave international camp to sign with Everton is a blow for the team, meaning they’ll be without their captain for the rest of the competition. I thought they were slightly unfortunate against El Salvador: dominant for the first 20 minutes (Rangelo Janga could legitimately have had a hat-trick during this period), switched off for two quick-fire El Salvadorian goals and then Gevaro Nepomuceno had his penalty saved leading up to half-time. That was undeniably an important moment in the match; the sort of moment that you look back on and point to as the turning point. Defensively they had to be tighter and in midfield, El Salvador found gaps to exploit. Possibly inexperience at this level for this group of players played a part and cost them, although I still enjoy watching Curacao play out from the back and through the thirds of the pitch. Mathematically they’re not out of contention for a spot in the final eight, however that happening is highly unlikely.
Stay tuned for more Gold Cup updates throughout the tournament.
By Nathan Carr