CONCACAF 2015 U-20 Championship: Group A Rounds 4 & 5 round-up
Group A of the CONCACAF U-20 Championship is concluded. Austin Fido brings the round-up of the last two rounds…
Five rounds of group play have provided us with the results of Group A of CONCACAF’s 2015 U-20 Championship: Panama is booked for the U-20 World Cup in New Zealand, and has a date with Mexico to decide who wins this tournament; Guatemala and the US will head to single-elimination playoffs to see if they can also get themselves to the summer’s big dance for this age group.
We also know, due to the relatively limited spectrum of possible results in Group B, that Guatemala and the US almost certainly won’t be playing each other in those playoffs.
Unless Honduras beats Canada by nine goals in the last round of Group B, the Americans will be the highest seeded team in the playoffs; Guatemala will be second or third. So the two Group A representatives will most likely find themselves matched up against Honduras, El Salvador or Cuba – the depending on how the final round of Group B shakes out.
But we’re here to look back at Group A. It’s final two rounds offered many closer-than-expected matches, even if the results ultimately fell in line with overall expectations based on these teams’ performances over the first few games of the tournament.
Here’s a look at what went down in Jamaica in Group A’s closing stages…
Group A: Round 4
T&T didn’t have much to gain from this game: win lose or draw, the likelihood was it wouldn’t have much effect on a U-20 World Cup qualifying campaign expected to require the Soca Warriors to beat the USA in their final group match.
Still, that also meant this was a game T&T could afford to lose, and in many ways, a narrow loss to a fluke goal (‘keeper Johan Welch played a lot better than his misfortune on the crucial play would suggest) is nothing to get down about.
But two red cards, including one to key striker Kadeem Corbin, are an entirely different story. T&T could afford to lose, but it couldn’t really afford to lose two likely starters for the crunch match against the USA.
The result set up Panama for a final-game playoff for first place in the group with Guatemala. And consigned T&T to the task of having to try to beat the US without a couple of important components of their starting lineup.
A surprisingly modest win for Guatemala, for whom these three points secured qualification for the next round. La Azul y Blanco created more than 20 scoring opportunities, but couldn’t rack up the sort of gaudy scores that have been fashionable for Group A’s teams to post against Aruba.
Still Guatemala exited this game in control of its destiny: a place in the knockout rounds assured, and a shot at winning the group (and automatic qualification for the U-20 World Cup) if it proved able to conjure a win against Panama in its final match of this phase of the tournament.
For Aruba, the loss was no less comprehensive than any of its prior results in this competition, but keeping the score down (with a little help from Guatemala’s errant finishing) will have been a confidence boost.
The USA was expected to march to New Zealand, using this tournament as little more than an opportunity to identify those prospects who might also contribute to the U-23s’ effort to make the 2016 Olympics.
It hasn’t quite gone to plan, but this victory at least put the Americans back on track for a top-three finish and a chance to book a spot in the u-20 World Cup via the playoffs.
It was a win that poured further disappointment on Jamaica’s thoroughly underwhelming work in this competition.
Perhaps the U-20 Boyz are merely trying to be generous hosts. Certainly, offering a stuttering opponent two penalties is courteous (Romain Gall converted both to take his scoring tally for the tournament to five goals after four rounds); the referee reciprocated by issuing no red cards for incidents that were surely in contention for such treatment.
Daniel Roberts gave the ref one more chance to reach for his back pocket (this time outside the penalty area), and drew the card it appeared Jamaica had been courting for most of the match.
For the USA, the time to agonize over performances and an apparent lack of decisiveness in the final third will be after World Cup qualification has been secured. Until then, this tournament is about grinding out the results required to get to New Zealand. Beating Jamaica relieves the young Americans of the need to beat Trinidad and Tobago in round 5, but there can be no further losses in this competition if the team’s primary ambition is to be met.
For Jamaica, it can look forward to a last-match win over Aruba, but there is no scale of victory in that game capable of obscuring the fact that this has been an extremely disappointing showing from the host nation – culminating in being bounced out of contention for World Cup qualification before the group stage even reached its final round.
Group A: Round 5
Guatemala 0-1 Panama
A clean sheet and a goal from Ismael Diaz is pretty much business as usual for Los Canaleros in this tournament, who have yet to concede and march into the final (against Mexico on January 24), as well as the U-20 World Cup, with maximum points from the Championship group stage.
Guatemala was dropped to third place in the final standings by the USA’s subsequent win over Trinidad and Tobago, but will not fear any opponent in the upcoming playoffs.
It was thoughtful of Group A to sign off with two matches of meaningful consequence in its final round. Guatemala and Panama effectively played for automatic World Cup qualification as well as a place in the Championship final; T&T then battled USA for the one remaining place in the knockout round still up for grabs from this group.
This wasn’t a pretty game: those who feared the pitch in Montego Bay would struggle to hold up under the strain of three matches a day for the best part of two weeks were right – it is cutting up badly.
But the uneven surface did deliver a close game, as the US once again struggled to convert midfield domination into goals.
T&T needed considerable luck to get out of the first half with a clean sheet.
But the longer the score stayed even, the greater the possibility the Soca Warriors might snatch a goal, three points, and a place in the next round.
The US swapped Ben Spencer’s size for Paul Arriola’s mobility, and finally made a counter-attack pay.
The Americans still look like a team that should be winning more comfortably, given the number of chances they manage to create per game. But Tab Ramos can worry about whether his side is good enough to compete with the best U-20 teams in the world once it books its place in New Zealand – and that will require one more win, in the playoffs, by whatever opportunity is presented.
T&T is once again denied a trip to a World Cup by a one-goal loss in a must-win game against the US in the Caribbean.
For a team that had conceded 19 goals in four games up to this point is a clean sheet better than a win? No – but Aruba still did extremely well to shake off the repeated misery of its past excursions in this competition and come away with a point.
Indeed, but for Jamaica ‘keeper Dane Chambers’ decision to sacrifice himself for his team, Aruba might have won this game.
The Reggae Boyz ought to have won the match at a canter, but they were frustrated by poor finishing…
…and determined work from Aruba’s gloveman Jeanmarc Antersijn.
It was expected that this last-round match-up of the two worst teams in Group A would see one side exit the tournament on a high. It just didn’t seem probable that side would be Aruba.
Group A Final Standings
1. Panama: 15 pts; GF 9; GA 0; GD +9
2. USA: 10 pts; GF 12; GA 2; GD + 10
3. Guatemala: 10 pts; GF 6; GA 2; GD +4
4. Trinidad and Tobago: 4 pts; GF 7; GA 7; GD +0
5. Jamaica: 2 pts; GF 2; GA 7; GD -1
6. Aruba: 1 pt; GF 1; GA 19; GD -18
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OTF’s Austin Fido is @canetop. Follow him.