Both Canada and Martinique are looking at their opening game of the 2013 Gold Cup as a must-win, one that could determine their qualification fates. With the much more fancied Mexicans and Panamanians on the horizon for both teams, getting three points would put whoever wins in a comfortable position while a draw would probably spell elimination for both, barring a shock result in the later rounds of games.
The last time Martinique was in the Gold Cup, way back in 2002, they pushed Canada just about as far as they could go as the teams dueled in the tournament’s quarterfinals. After a 1-1 draw went 120 minutes, the teams went to penalty kicks with Canada eventually eking out a modest 6-5 win in the shootout. A much younger Lars Hirschfeld was in goal for Canada on that day. Hirschfeld and Julian de Guzman are the only holdovers from that team.
Canada Team Outlook
With the announcement that Benito Floro is taking over as head coach, Canada finally looks to be heading into a period of stability after nine months of looking for a new head coach. But before Floro takes over, Colin Miller has one final opportunity to pick up a maiden win as Canadian head coach. This game presents Canada’s best opportunity for a win – Mexico and Panama will be far tougher tests as Canada will likely be hoping to advance as one of the best third place teams.
Martinique Team Outlook
The Gold Cup is as good as it gets for players wearing Martinique’s kit. As a French territory and a non-FIFA member, Martinique cannot qualify for the World Cup unless players are called into the French national squad. Martinique haven’t reached the Gold Cup since 2002 when they were knocked out by Canada. But they beat Cuba and tied Jamaica at the Caribbean Cup to qualify last winter, which suggests this mystery team – there are precious few scouting opportunities – is capable of pulling off a surprise.
Players to Watch:
Canada – Will Johnson
As one of only a handful of veterans on this very young roster, Johnson will be relied on heavily to be the on-field general for his inexperienced teammates. Named as captain just before the tournament, Johnson needs to show the same leadership he’s shown as captain in Portland if Canada wants this next generation of talent to fulfill their potential. Johnson’s biggest challenge will be in initiating possession for Canada, much as he does from his central midfield spot with the Timbers.
Martinique – Frederic Piquionne
Piquionne is eligible for Martinique since five years have passed since his last cap for the French national team. He’ll be leading a team composed largely of players based in Martinique with a few European professionals mixed in. Piquionne, a big target forward for the Portland Timbers, would love nothing more than to help his small French territory upset club teammate Johnson and Canada.
GOALKEEPERS (3): Lars Hirschfeld (Valerenga/Norway), Milan Borjan (Sivasspor/Turkey), Simon Thomas (Vancouver Whitecaps FC)
DEFENDERS (7): Ashtone Morgan (Toronto FC), David Edgar (Burnley FC/England), Adam Straith (unattached), Marcel de Jong (Augsburg/Germany), Nik Ledgerwood (Hammarby/Sweden), Nana Attakora (San Jose Earthquakes), Doneil Henry (Toronto FC).
MIDFIELDERS (9): Kyle Bekker (Toronto FC), Julian de Guzman (unattached), Samuel Piette (Fortuna Dusseldorf/Germany), Pedro Pacheco (Santa Clara/Portugal), Will Johnson (Portland Timbers), Issey Nakajima-Farran (Alki/Cyprus), Russell Teibert (Vancouver Whitecaps FC), Jonathan Osorio (Toronto FC), Keven Aleman (Real Valladolid/Spain).
FORWARDS (4): Tosaint Ricketts (Sandnes Ulf/Norway), Randy Edwini-Bonsu (unattached), Marcus Haber (Stevenage/England), Simeon Jackson (unattached)
GOALKEEPERS (3): Emmanuel Vermignon (Club Colonial/Martinique), Kevin Olimpa (Bordeaux/France), Loic Chauvet (Golden Star/Martinique).
DEFENDERS (8): Sebastien Cretinoir (Club Colonial/Martinique), Nicolas Zaire (Riviere-Pilote/Martinique), Jacky Berdix (Case-Pilote/Martinique), Audrick Linord (SO Romorantin/France), William Sery (Raon-l’Etape/France), Lionel Ravi (Club Franciscain/Martinique), Gregory Arnolin (Sporting Gijon/Spain), Jean-Sylvain Babin (Alcorcon/Spain).
MIDFIELDERS (6): Danielle Herelle (Club Colonia/Martinique), Fabrice Reuperne (Golden Star/Martinique), Gael Germany (Paris FC/France), Stephane Abaul (Club Franciscain/Martinique), Jordy Delem (Club Franciscain/Martinique), Olivier Thomert (Le Mans/France),
FORWARDS (6): Kevin Tresfeld (Club Franciscain/Martinique), Kevin Parsemin (Riviere-Pilote/Martinique), Frederic Piquionne (Portland Timbers), Yoann Arquin (Notts County/England), Mathias Coureur (Golden Lion/Martinique), Steve Gustan (Club Franciscain/Martinique).