Before their match with Jamaica, Curacao knew that they needed a result to stay a live in the Gold Cup. Heading into stoppage time down 1-0, they were going to need a miracle to get that result and then the help they needed to advance.
This was the root for chaos scenario we could only dream of and it was spectacular.
Curacao fullback Jurien Gaari struck a rocket of a winner in the third minute of stoppage time to equalize against Jamaica in a dramatic 1-1 finish that eventually saw the Caribbean Cup champs into their first modern Gold Cup knockout stage. Despite the late winner and subsequent draw, the Reggae Boyz of Jamaica still topped Group C with five points.
It was Jamaica who opened the scoring early following an impressive start that saw them take nine shots in the opening minutes. Andre Lewis struck a shot from the top of the box, and striker Shamar Nicholson used a hockey like deflection in front to open the scoring in the 14th minute.
Despite their impressive start, and eventual 17 shot total. Jamaica only put four shots on goal as Curacao slowly took over possession in the game. However, Curacao had their own shooting struggles, managing just two shots on target out of ten total going into stoppage time.
That is when Gaari rescued Curacao from the brink. Leandro Bacuna played a simple ball at the top of the box and Gaari unleashed a laser that left even the mighty Andre Blake rooted on the ground as the ball flew into the far top corner.
Despite the draw, Curacao still needed help in the second game as they had only pulled level with El Salvador on points and still trailed on goal difference. A result by Los Cuscatlecos against an already eliminated Honduras would still eliminate Curacao.
After a scoreless first half, Honduras began to redeem themselves from a miserable campaign when Jorge Alvarez opened the scoring with a beautiful long range curler in the 59th.
Then El Salvador began to unravel as six minutes later, Rubilio Castillo latched on to a loose touch by the defense and fired home Honduras’ second. Ten minutes after in the 75th, Maynor Figeroua hit a perfect 60 yard ball to Bryan Acosta, who chested down the pass at the top of the box and coolly turned and slotted home to make it 3-0. Emilio Izaguirre capped off the scoring in the 90th minute to complete the rout and end El Salvador’s tournament.
It was a poor end to an overall solid tournament for Los Cuscatlecos, who for the fifth straight tournament recorded two positive results in the group stage. El Salvador had made three of the past four quarterfinals, missing out in 2015 as the odd third place team out with just two points on two draws. Honduras knew their fate going in after losing both of their previous group games but this is a result we knew they were capable off but too often can’t put together.
But back to the jubilation that is the Curacao national team, as they await their quarterfinal opponent. That will be determined tonight, as the United States and Panama square off tonight at 9pm Eastern from Kansas City’s Children’s Mercy Park to determine the overall placement for Group D. A win or a draw will see the US advance as group winners to face Curacao while a Panama win would see them top the group. The second place team in Group D will face Jamaica on the other side of the bracket.
Trinidad and Tobago-Guyana will be the first match of Group D at 630pm with both teams already eliminated from the knockouts with 0-2 records.