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2019 Gold Cup Group A Primer - Canada, Cuba, Martinique, Mexico

Tata Martino has Mexico in prime position to reclaim the Gold Cup crown, but can Canada’s youth or Martinique’s magic spoil the group state for El Tri?

Mexico National Team Training Session & Press Conference Photo by Carlos Ramirez/Getty Images

Ah, the Gold Cup is back and this year we have 16 teams to talk about and thankfully (unfortunately?), no third place tiebreakers to figure out.

Anyway, as always we start of with Group A which is highlighted by Mexico and an opening game at the Rose Bowl later on tonight. El Tri has been humming under Tata Martino after he left MLS Cup champions Atlanta United at the beginning of the year. Mexico is missing a few stars but it might not matter to much in the long run of the tournament while resurgent Canada is looking to continue their good form along with upstart Martinique and a normally consistent Cuba side coming off a horrendous 2017 cycle.

Why are these primers and not previews? Because it’s more a source of important information I’ve compiled than deep insight or research.

TV SCHEDULE

Saturday June 15th, 2019

7:30 p.m.: Canada vs. Martinique at the Rose Bowl, Pasadena, Calif.

Fox Sports 2, Univision, and Univision Deportes

10 p.m.: Mexico vs. Cuba at the Rose Bowl, Pasadena, Calif.

Fox Sports 2, Univision, and Univision Deportes

Wednesday June 19th, 2019

8 p.m.: Cuba vs. Martinique at Broncos Stadium at Mile High, Denver

Fox Sports 1, Univision Deportes

10:30 p.m.: Mexico vs. Canada at Broncos Stadium at Mile High, Denver

Fox Sports 1, Univision, and Univision Deportes

Sunday June 23rd, 2019

6 p.m.: Canada vs. Cuba at Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, N.C.

Fox Sports 2, Univision, and Univision Deportes

8:30 p.m.: Martinique vs. Mexico at Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, N.C.

Fox Sports 1, Univision and Univision Deportes

TEAM PRIMERS

CANADA [CAN/A2]

Head Coach: John Herdman (ENG)

FIFA Ranking: 78

Nickname: The Canucks, Les Rouges

Qualification: Nations League Qualification 2nd Place

Appearance: 14th / Best Finish: Champions (2000)

Roster Breakdown: 12 MLS (USA/CAN), 2 England, 2 Scotland, 2 Turkey, 1 Serbia, 1 Wales, 1 Germany, 1 Mexico, 1 Belgium

Player To Watch: MID Alphonso Davies, Bayern Munich (GER), 10 Int’l Appearances, 3 Goals – The former Vancouver Whitecaps homegrown moved on to bigger and better things a year ago, winning the Bundesliga for 2018-19 while making 6 first team appearances and notching his first goal in Germany. Canada’s resurgence in the region is thanks to young talents like Davies.

Player To Know: FWD Cyle Larin, Besiktas (TUR), 29 Int’l Appearances, 8 Goals – You knew this was coming, of course we’re going to talk about the former UConn #1 overall pick and 2015 MLS Rookie of the Year. Larin’s exit to Besiktas aside, he had a fairly tame 2018-19 season, but did bag a hat trick in Europa League qualifying against a Faroe Islands side.

Tournament Outlook

Canada has quietly been rising up the FIFA and CONCACAF rankings thanks to a young generation of attacking talent and are now under the tutelage of former Canada WNT head coach John Herdman. Canada now sits as the 6th best team in the region in the rankings, dominated their Nations League qualification schedule and look poised for a significant breakthrough on the international stage and have rebounded nicely from a dismal 2014 cycle that saw them go winless in the 2013 calander year. In 2017 the Canucks made their first knockout stage/quarterfinal since 2009, and despite a loss to eventual runners-up Jamaica in the quarters, Canada finished the group stage unbeaten with draws to Costa Rica and Honduras. While Mexico are the clear favorites of the group, it’s completely fair to say the second place spot is Canada’s to lose and not unfair to think this is a squad capable of reaching the semis.

CUBA [CUB/A4]

Head Coach: Raul Mederos (CUB)

FIFA Ranking: 175

Nickname: Leones del Caribe (Lions of the Caribbean)

Qualification: Nations League, 6th Place

Appearance: 9th / Best Finish: Quarterfinals (2003, 2013, 2015)

Roster Breakdown: 15 Domestic, 5 Dominican Rep, 2 Guatemala, 1 Panama

Player To Watch: FWD Luis Paradela, Universidad SC (GUA), 6 International Appearances, 5 Goals - This is straight from out resident Cuba expert, and former TBM Rhinos beat writer, Brendan Doherty:

You know that Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon game or whatever it is? Doherty can do that with the Rochester Rhinos off the top of his head, he’s the best.

Tournament Outlook

Cuba’s down swing in the 2017 cycle was stark as they failed to qualify for not only the Gold Cup but also the Caribbean Cup. With a 16-team Gold Cup field, I’d hope Cuba would return to be regular participants in the tournament as well as regulars in the “A” Flight of the Nations League, even if they have to win a few “B” groups to get back into the top flight. But their recent results outside of the Nations League suggest otherwise, just a handful of wins besides the three Nations League qualifiers dating back to the 2015 Gold Cup.

MARTINIQUE [MTQ/A3]

Head Coach: Mario Bocaly (MTQ)

FIFA Ranking: N/A (Non-FIFA Member, Elo Ranking 91, CONCACAF Ranking 12th)

Nickname: Les Matinino

Qualification: Nations League 3rd Place

Appearance: 6th / Best Finish: Quarterfinals (2002)

Roster Breakdown: 17 Domestic, 3 France, 2 Spain, 1 MLS

Player To Watch: DEF Jordy Delem, Seattle Sounders (USA), 41 Int’l Appearances, 5 Goals – Delem rose through the ranks of the Seattle Sounders USL 2 team after signing with them in 2016 and while listed as a defender/fullback here, he plays primarily at holding mid in Seattle.

Player To Know: FWD Kevin Parsemain, Golden Lion (MTQ), 48 Int’l Appearances, 32 Goals – Parsemain has had two shots at MLS, one ended in Seattle with a torn ACL and another with Sporting KC never got past a formal transfer request. Still, the 31 year old forward is a fixture on this squad and a bit of a Gold Cup legend. He shared the 2017 tournament Golden Boot with Alphonso Davies (CAN) and Jordan Morris (USA) as all three scored three goals apiece though Parsemain did it in just three group stage games, including a brace against the USMNT.

Tournament Outlook

I feel obligated to apologize to Canada again for playing this, as I seemingly do almost every year, but I do love this goal...

For a squad that only participates in CONCACAF events and not much else, it’s amazing at how successful this team is. Unbeaten in Nations League qualification and sporting 1W-0D-2L records in each of their last two Gold Cups (2013 and 2017), we’ve seen Martinique compete at this level before and there’s certainly no reason to think they can’t play spoiler in this group either. Their last two tournaments in 2013 and 2017 saw them barely miss out on the knockout stages, being the odd third place team out on both occasions.

MEXICO [MEX/A1]

Head Coach: Gerardo “Tata” Martino (ARG)

FIFA Ranking: 18

Nickname: El Tri

Qualification: ”The Hex”, 2018 World Cup Qualification, 1st Place

Appearance: 15th / Best Finish: Champions (93, 96, 98, 03, 09, 11, 15)

Roster Breakdown: 14 Domestic, 4 Spain, 2 MLS, 1 Belgium, 1 England, 1 Netherlands

Player To Watch: FWD Raul Jimenez, Wolverhampton (ENG), 71 Int’l Appearances, 17 Goals – On loan in 2018-19 with Wolves, Jimenez had a spectacular club season, notching 13 goals on the year. With heavy hitters Carlos Vela and Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez not named to the tournament squad, Jimenez will be relied on to do the heavy lifting up top.

Player To Know: MID Andres Guardado, Real Betis (ESP), 155 Int’l Appearances, 26 Goals – The captain and legend is looking to add another Gold Cup to the mantle, and at 32, this could be his last World Cup cycle.

Tournament Outlook

With El Tri’s resurgence and consistency under Tata Martino this year, Mexico are the heavy favorites going into the tournament. It’s a favorable draw in the group stage though they will be tested and winning four straight friendlies against South American teams (on US soil) and scoring 13 goals in those four matches. While they also allowed 6 goals in that stretch, if the attack is firing like it has been in 2019, it will be difficult for anyone in the region to keep pace.

GROUP OUTLOOK

This is not just Mexico’s group to lose, but their tournament to lose as well. While Canada and Martinique will likely offer competitive or spirited matches, it’s hard to not expect Mexico to top this group with all nine points or at the very least seven. That leaves Canada having to solidify themselves at the number two spot and build on their group success from last tournament and exorcise the demons of that goal I like to play far too often. In past editions, I’d would’ve picked Martinique to advance as one of the third place teams, but only the top two advance in this 16-team tournament. Cuba remains an enigma but a consistent one, and this could be a good benchmark for how well they might play Canada and the USA in their Nations League group later this fall. But I think they’ll be on the outside looking in here, this group will go chalk.

Group Predictions

(1) Mexico, (2) Canada, (3) Martinique, (4) Cuba