I hate predicting chalk, it’s so boring. And while CONCACAF is wonderfully chaotic, there is still a pretty significant line in the sand between the really good teams and the minnows.
In theory, that’s what we have here. Costa Rica and Jamaica are two established regional teams that regularly make the knockout stages and Guadeloupe and Suriname barely make the Gold Cup. Guadeloupe hasn’t done it in a decade and Suriname hasn’t been here since 1985 when it was the CONCACAF Championship.
Now I know post COVID soccer hasn’t been that frequent but it’s not like Costa Rica or Jamaica would be considered in form based on recent results. Costa Rica hasn’t won a game since last October and Jamaica has just a few games played in 2021 including a 4-1 loss to a mostly European based roster for the United States back in March.
At least with Jamaica we can trust their recent Gold Cup history of two finals and a semi-final in their last three tournaments. While Costa Rica is a constant fixture in the knockouts, they have just one semifinal in the last decade and just two going back to 2005. Neither Costa Rica or Jamaica score a lot of goals, but they don’t give up a ton either. So even if they aren’t running away with games, it still is going to be tough for Guadeloupe and Suriname to tally goals as well.
TV SCHEDULE (all times Eastern)
Monday, July 12 (Orlando)
Jamaica vs. Suriname, 6:25 p.m. (FS1)
Costa Rica vs. Guadeloupe, 9 p.m. (FS1)
Friday, July 16 (Orlando)
Guadeloupe vs. Jamaica, 6:30 p.m. (FS1)
Suriname vs. Costa Rica, 9 p.m. (FS1)
Tuesday, July 20 (Orlando/Houston)
Costa Rica vs. Jamaica, 7 p.m. (FS1)
Suriname vs. Guadeloupe, 7 p.m. (FS2)
COSTA RICA [CRC/C1]
Head Coach: Luis Fernandez Suarez (COL)
FIFA Ranking: 50 Nickname: Los Ticos
Qualification: Nations League A Flight, Group D Winners
Appearance: 15th / Best Finish: Runner-ups (2002)
Roster Breakdown: 12 Domestic, 5 USA/MLS, 3 Spain, 1 Denmark, 1 Mexico, 1 Columbia
Recent Matches: CNL Semis D 0-0 vs MEX (L 4-5 on PKs), CNL 3rd Place D 2-2 vs HON (L 4-5 on PKs), Friendly L 0-4 vs USA
Players To Know: FW Joel Cambell, MF Bryan Ruiz, MF Celso Borges – With Campbell sitting on 99 international games, his next match would give all three of The Ticos old guard a century of caps.
Los Ticos are in bad form at the moment, since restarting games after COVID last fall, they haven’t won a match. While it’s a tough slate of games to be fair, they’re just not scoring enough unless it’s Joel Campbell and that’s something this squad will have to work on if they want to get through WCQ which might be the Old Guard’s last World Cup. I’m not sure they’re the favorites in this group but it would still be stunning for them to get dumped out in the group stage.
Head Coach: Jocelyn Angloma (GLP/FRA)
FIFA Ranking: N/A Nickname: The Gwada Boys
Qualification: Nations League C Flight Winners, GCQ Winners (W vs Bahamas 2-0, D 1-1 vs Guatemala – qualified on PKs 10-9)
Appearance: 4th / Best Finish: Fourth (2007)
Roster Breakdown: 14 Domestic, 5 France, 1 Cyprus, 1 Martinique, 1 Switzerland, 1 USA/USL
Guadeloupe were a bit unlucky to qualify for the original C Flight in the Nations League, as they lost out on goal difference for the last B Flight spot to Aruba. They did however breeze through their group undefeated and got through Gold Cup qualifying with a win over the Bahamas and then advanced on PKs against a scrappy Guatemala side. Without a full time international calendar of games to go off of, or even any recent Gold Cup history with their last appearance in 2011, it’s hard to give them anything but an outside shot at the knockouts. But with one of the two favorites in a bit of disarray, Group C could stand for chaos and we are here for it.
Head Coach: Theodore Whitmore (JAM)
FIFA Ranking: 45 Nickname: The Reggae Boyz
Qualification: Nations League B Flight, Group C Winners
Appearance: 12th / Best Finish: Runners Up (2015, 2017)
Roster Breakdown: 1 Domestic, 8 England, 8 USA/CAN (MLS/USL), 2 Belgium, 1 Egypt, 1 Sweden, 1 Germany, 1 Unattached
Recent Matches: D 1-1 vs Serbia, L 0-4 at Japan
Player To Know: GK Andre Blake, Philadelphia Union, 45 International Appearances – The former UConn Husky is still one of the top shotstoppers in the region and his experience might be the difference in the group.
Players To Watch: The Strikers – Yes, all of them. The “old” guard here includes Corey Burke also from the Union, Bobby Decordova-Reid of Fulham and Andre Gray of Watford, but Gray’s the oldest at just 30. The young guns include Leon Bailey of Leverkusen, Shamar Nicholson of Charleroi in Belgium, and Junior Flemings of USL fame all at 25 or younger. This group has 17 goals combined but 13 of them belong to Burke and Nicholson and while a stout defense has gotten them to three straight semifinals (and two of the past three finals), more goals would be nice.
I think I might have the Reggae Boyz as the favorites in this group. I just trust them more based on their recent tournament results as well. While they haven’t turned their Gold Cup success into WCQ success, they’ve held their international form pretty well and did grab one of the automatic Top 5 ranking berths into The Octagon ahead of Qatar 2022. With Honduras and Costa Rica in particularly not racking up wins, a good tourney run here could be a springboard to their second World Cup appearance something this group would deserve.
Head Coach: Dean Gorre (SUR)
FIFA Ranking: 136 Nickname: Natio / A-Selektie
Qualification: Nations League B Flight, Group D Winners
Appearance: Debut / Best Finish: N/A
Roster Breakdown: 11 Domestic/Netherlands, 2 Israel, 2 Turkey, 1 USA/USL, 1 India, 1 Greece, 1 Germany, 1 Trinidad and Tobago, 1 Slovakia, 2 Unattached
Recent Matches: WCQ – W 3-0 vs Cayman Islands, W 6-0 vs Aruba (in USA), W 6-0 vs Bermuda, L 0-4 vs Canada (in USA)
Suriname are a completely new look squad thanks to FIFA regulations that let them tap into a mostly Dutch born player pool. Similar to Curacao’s rise, Suriname are much better than their current ranking would indicate but making their tournament debut and only a handful of qualifiers played together it might be a big ask for a quarterfinal appearance on debut. Down the road though, and perhaps beginning in the 2026 qualifying cycle in particular, is where we might see that dark horse potential show up as this squad builds chemistry and builds depth. They’ll also be in the Nations League A Flight next year as well so they’ll get some additional tests against the region’s best.
I am a big fan of rooting for chaos, particularly in CONCACAF where that’s pretty much our middle name. I would love nothing more than to see this group turn into an outright four-way scrap to get into the knockout stages and there’s a lot of factors going for that. A lot of low scoring games and draws could see several tiebreakers applied to get into the next round but that would have to be a pretty substantial collapse from one of the two favorites, likely Costa Rica, but I just don’t see it.
In a different draw, I think either Costa Rica or Jamaica could be on the outside looking in. Alas, they get arguably the two teams with the least tournament experience in the entire draw in Guadeloupe and Suranime, the latter in particular I think is a couple years away from really establishing a footing in the region. The Ticos will do just enough to finish second before getting dumped out of the quarterfinals again by the Group B winner (either the USA or Canada). Jamaica making another semifinal wouldn’t surprise me and we need to get Andre Blake into a World Cup in the next five years.
1 ) Jamaica 2 ) Costa Rica 3 ) Suriname 4 ) Guadeloupe