Mexico, Trinidad & Tobago, Cuba and Guyana Earn Semis Spots
Day 6 was decider day for the men. Only GUA came into the day knowing that they will play for 5-8th. Each Pool A team could qualify, so they all were in must win situations. JAM needed to beat the tournament’s top ranked team by a wide margin and hope for a BAR win.
Match 1 Pool B – Mexico (MEX) vs. Dominican Republic (DOM)
It was Pool B that started the day’s matches though. DOM needed to beat MEX to have a chance of qualifying. With GUA vs GUY still to play there was no way for them to know how many goals they would need. They came out aggressively pushing MEX into their defensive half. MEX played their game, looking to force turnovers in midfield and counterattack. They earned a couple PCs but were unable to score them. DOM forced a few circle entries, but did not threaten the MEX goal and the Q1 horn sounded with the score 0-0.
MEX dominated possession early in Q2 and earned a PC that was well defended. As the quarter progressed DOM’s determined play started to push MEX back. They earned a couple PCs that were easily stopped by the defence and Joel MINCON just missed a deflected shot. DOM’s cause was helped by some MEX indiscipline as they earned 4 cards, 2 green and 2 yellow leaving them playing with 9 players. DOM finally used their numerical advantage when Jose LOPEZ scored with 3 seconds left on the clock. The horn sounded on Q2 with the score 0-1.
Q3 started with MEX playing more aggressively looking for the equaliser. DOM defended well, Wander RODRIGUEZ making some crucial saves. MEX earned a few PCs and forced a couple saves from RODRIGUEZ. DOM played for counterattacking opportunities, eventually earning a PC of their own but the MEX defence held firm and Q3 ended with the score still 0-1.
Q4 saw a midfield battle with neither team able to get any clear chances. Just two minutes in RODRIGUEZ was indecisive on a cross leaving Francisco AGUILAR with an easy tap in goal. DOM immediately came to life pushing for the crucial goal to put them in front. MEX withstood the pressure and took the lead when another cross ball was well met by AGUILAR to deflect past RODRIGUEZ. Then with DOM running out of ideas MEX added a third, AGUILAR’s hattrick. The game ended shortly after with a comfortable 3-1 win for MEX who topped the group with a perfect 3 wins from 3 matches, booking their place in the semi-final.
Match 2 Pool A – Trinidad and Tobago (TTO) vs. Jamaica (JAM)
A TTO win by at least two goals would all but qualify them for the semi-finals as a CUB win will knock BAR out. The JAM scenario was a bit more improbably, but they did come out to make a game of it pushing TTO back in defence. They also earned the game’s first PC, but it was well defended. TTO started to dominate possession and position, while JAM settled into a half field press when not in possession. It worked well for them as they neutralised the TTO threat. The horn sounded on the score 0-0.
Q2 saw temperatures reach a staggering 40 degrees Celsius. To cope both teams played a bit slower. TTO had more possession, but were unable to convert it into quality chances. They did get numerous PCs but they struggled to get good shots on target. Eventually captain Akim TOUSSAINT got a bit of room and managed to drill his shot past Giovanni GREEN in the JAM goal. TTO earned a few more PCs but failed to add to the score and the halftime horn sounded with the score TTO 1-0 JAM.
Q3 got under way in the scorching heat with TTO searching for a way past the solid JAM defence. Again they earned numerous PCs but failed to score them. JAM kept their discipline, looking for the counterattack, but TTO did well to neutralise any threats. Q3 ended with the score still 1-0.
TTO maintained their stranglehold on the game in Q4. Two minutes in they forced a turnover and Teague MARCANO scored from the counterattack to double his team’s lead. TTO kept coming at JAM but still could not score any of the PCs that they continued to earn. The game was basically played in the JAM half, but they continued to keep good defensive structure making it difficult for TTO. When TTO did get a good chance GREEN was alert enough to keep them out. TTO eventually did get one more, another TOUSSAINT FG. The final horn sounded with the score 3-0. TTO did enough to qualify for the semi-finals.
Match 3 Pool B – Guatemala (GUA) vs. Guyana (GUY)
Our third match saw GUY coming in as favourites to claim the third semi-final spot following DOM’s loss earlier. They did not relax, immediately pushing GUA back. GUA demonstrated their disciplined committed selves keeping GUY out until the final minute of the quarter when Me’shach SARGEANT scored a FG. The Q1 score was 0-1.
GUA tried to push forward in attack, but they were unable to threaten the GUY goal. GUY continued to dominate play earning a few PCs. Their pressure eventually worked when Randy HOPE added their second from a PC. GUA stayed strong and there were no goals by the time the halftime horn sounded.
GUY needed less than a minute for Jerazeno BELL to score from a PC. GUA then enjoyed their best period of the match, earning a PC and keeping the ball in the oppositions half for small periods of play. GUY easily withstood the pressure and created another chance that Aroydy BRANFORD scored to make the Q3 score 4-0.
Again GUY only needed a minute to score another BELL PC. GUA started to fade in the afternoon heat and with it their usual disciplined defence. Bell completed his hattrick from a FG before captain Robert FRANCE scored two FGs in the final 2 minutes for an emphatic 8-0 win. GUY easily qualified for the semi-final with their win.
Match 4 Pool A – Cuba (CUB) vs. Barbados (BAR)
Our final match was a virtual quarter-final matchup between the Caribbean rivals. A BAR win or draw would be enough to qualify for the semi-finals as group leader while only a win would qualify CUB. The game started at a fast pace with CUB pushing BAR deep. BAR tried to counter by playing quickly, but that suited the CUB who started creating circle entries. Two minutes before the quarter ended Iraidys CALDERON got around his defender and shot past Andre BOYCE in the BAR goal for a 1-0 lead. The horn sounded shortly after with the score still CUB 1-0 BAR.
Q2 started as quickly as the first, CUB pushing BAR back. As the quarter progressed BAR started slowing the game down by keeping possession of the ball. They earned a couple PCs like this, but were unable to score them. CUB kept coming and a cross was excellently deflected by CALDERON, but saved by BOYCE who was unable to stop the rebound. BAR pushed forward looking for a goal, but despite earning a PC were unable to score. The halftime horn sounded with the score 2-0.
The game continued to play at a fast pace with CUB doing most of the running. BAR managed a PC that was drilled into the bottom corner by Che WARNER to get his team back into the game. The play went from end to end without many clear chances until CUB earned a PC that was skilfully flicked by Roger AGUILERA. The game started to get more physical, but except for one green card the umpires were able manage the situation with strong whistles. The horn sounded with the score 3-1.
BAR came out in search of a quick goal and they got it 2 minutes into Q4. Akeem RUDDER deflecting in a cross on the far post. The game settled into more of a midfield battle, with CUB creating a few opportunities. BAR defended well and continued to press for an equaliser. The game was loaded with action. BAR earned a PC that was brilliantly charged down by Yasmany GUTIERREZ. CUB though had the last word as they caught BAR committing numbers forward and CALDERON stole the ball from Marlon DANIEL to run the length of the field to beat BOYCE with a fierce strike. The full-time horn sounded seconds later with CUB celebrating their 4-2 win and the last semi-final spot.
With that the semi-finals will see CUB vs GUY and MEX vs. TTO. The 5-8th playoffs see BAR vs. GUA and DOM vs. JAM.
We are now into the classification phase of the tournament, starting with the women tomorrow. DOM vs. GUA and JAM vs. GUY will be trying to qualify for a chance to play for 5th place. MEX vs. BAR and TTO vs. CUB will be looking to secure one of the two automatic qualifying positions for Pan American Games next year.