Friday, March 14, 2008

U-23 Olympic Qualifying Roundup

The current round of CONCACAF qualification was rocked on the very first day when a very unfancied Cuba squad drew the USA 1-1. That night, five Cuban players were presumed to defect to the USA when they walked out of their hotel. Combined with the red card in that first match, Cuba was facing going into their second match against Honduras with only 12 available players. Just when they thought it could not get any worse, two more players disappeared, leaving the squad with 10 players. What is a team to do? They could quit, but we will leave that to Gretna. No, the Cubans lined up with 10 men and salvaged themselves some pride.

Inside we'll take a quick look at qualifying so far.

Well, playing with 10 men did not work magic for Cuba. Honduras handled their shorthanded foes, defeating Cuba 2-0 behind second half goals by Sanchez and Thomas. Honduras outshot Cuba 25-3. After watching the Cuba-USA game and knowing that shot count was only 19-9, I can only imagine how lopsided this game was.

In the other Group A match, the USA did better, squeaking past a spirited Panama squad in a match that sometimes degenerated into a pushing and shoving match. Adu scored a penalty late in the first half after Altidore had rounded the keeper on a one on one and drew the contact. Panama pressed for an equalizer in the second half, looking especially bright in the first 15 minutes, but never really threatened Chris Seitz's net.

Honduras has already qualified, and Panama is eliminated.
Group A Standings (W-D-L; Pts; GD)
Honduras 2-0-0; 6; +3
USA 1-1-0; 4; +1
Cuba 0-1-1; 1; -2
Panama 0-0-2; 0; -2

In Group B, only the first matches have been played. Guatemala dispatched Haiti 1-0 on a 27th minute goal from Avila. Mexico had a USA-style slip up in their first match, drawing Canada 1-1. Canada scored in the third minute form Johnson, while Mexico knotted up from the penalty spot through Landin in the 22nd. Neither team was especially proficient in front of net, as both sides only had 2 attempts on goal.

Group B Standings (W-D-L; Pts; GD0
Guatemala 1-0-0; 3; +1
Mexico 0-1-0; 1; 0
Canada 0-1-0; 1; 0
Haiti 0-0-1; 0; -1

Group B resumes today with Canada playing Haiti and Mexico tussling with Guatemala. The group finishes on Sunday. Group A finishes on Saturday. USA will play Honduras, while Cuba takes on Panama. The top two teams of each group will advance to the semifinals in Nashville on March 20. The winner of those two matches will go to the Olympics, and the CONCACAF champion will be decided in Nashville on March 23.

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