A Preview of the Men’s Semi-final and Classification Matches
Like the women before them, the men have completed pool play and our playoff match ups are decided. They are Pool A winners CUB vs Pool B runners up GUY and Pool B winners MEX vs. Pool A runners up TTO in the semi-finals; then 5-8th playoffs see 3rd place Pool A BAR vs. 4th place Pool B GUA and 3rd place Pool B DOM vs. 4th place Pool A JAM.
Using their tournament rank we have # 5 ranked CUB vs. #3 ranked GUY, #2 ranked MEX vs. #1 ranked TTO, #4 ranked BAR vs. #6 ranked GUA and #7 ranked DOM vs. #8 ranked JAM. The men’s draw was one of those times where the tournament rank meant nothing and just like the women not all the teams have played the same number of tournaments to earn ranking points. JAM played well in the tournament, but were grouped with three of the semi-finalists from Veracruz 4 years ago. DOM also played better than their world rank of 82 would suggest and a move disciplined approach might have seen them through to the semi-finals.
CUB topped their group, which saw three teams finish on 6 points, on goal difference. They had to overcome the disappointment of an opening round loss to TTO and if they were in fact disappointed it never showed. Their 10 goals scored was better only by their semi-final opponent GUY. GUY were strong and consistent throughout the tournament. Their impressive 11 goal haul includes a shut out at the hands of MEX, but they have also shown an ability to defend well and will ask questions of the CUB team. MEX, like their women before them, played a perfect 3 from 3 in pool phase. They have curiously scored exactly 3 goals in each match and conceded just the one. Their most significant test was from DOM and they showed patience and maturity to make the result more comfortable than it looked. TTO have been a mixed bag in the tournament, beating defending champions CUB in their opening match before losing to Caribbean rivals BAR in a match that they dominated for long periods. They have scored 6 goals so far, a modest total considering how many opportunities they have created, but as the #1 ranked team in the tournament they should prove a difficult opponent for the MEX team.
BAR have been the most defensively tenacious team. They conceded 4 against CUB only because they were chasing a result after conceding early on. They have not scored many, but will probably be more expressive against GUA. GUA have very unspectacularly had a good tournament. They have lost heavily in competitive matches coming into this tournament, and except for a tired second half against GUY showed strong defensive skills with an emerging attacking identity. They have mixed counterattacking with occasional build up play. BAR should be too much for them, but you suspect that they will not make it easy. DOM, like their women, have been mercurial in the tournament. They have mixed moments of brilliance with some ordinary hockey, often within a few minutes of each other. They have played exciting hockey and we can expect more of the same against their JAM opponents. JAM have been a difficult team to beat as they ran BAR close, had one bad quarter against CUB and probably ran out of steam against TTO. They have a physical presence that should match up well against DOM and they should also be better after the lessons learned against 3 quality opponents.
Still not predicting any outcomes, but we invite you to try your luck. At the business end of the tournament teams will be stepping it up. Look out for our Day 8 recap to find out how the games went.