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2023 Gold Cup Group C Primer, TV Schedule - Costa Rica, El Salvador, Martinique, Panama
Panama already claimed a Nations League group win involving two of these teams, can they hold on to that top spot again?
So a funny thing happened on the way to the Gold Cup. Someone accidentally drew up Group B from the Nations League, added El Salvador, and called it Group C for the Gold Cup.
Panama topped that group without conceding a goal, their only blemish a scoreless draw at Martinique as they beat Costa Rica in both legs. Adding a spunky and notorious pain in the you know what side that El Salvador often is only adds to the intrigue that could be the closest group in the tournament.
Costa Rica needed late goals against Martinique in both CNL games to seal a home win and mount a late comeback win on the road. El Salvador posted 5 of their 6 goals in the CNL group against Grenada, and Panama was shut out in the CNL Finals and has a goal by committee thing going on that could mean goals could be at a premium over these matches.
Los Canaleros however should be the favorites to advance again, but the second team is not as clear. Costa Rica has the star power to put goals on the board, but obviously has a very inexperienced squad around those big names. Will it be enough for the Ticos to grab second place again or will El Salvador advance to another knockout stage on the back of their stingy consistent play?
TV SCHEDULE (all times US Eastern, games on FS1 / Univision / TUDN)
June 26: El Salvador vs Martinique – DRV PNK Stadium, Fort Lauderdale, FL, 6:30 p.m.
June 26: Costa Rica vs Panama – DRV PNK Stadium, Fort Lauderdale, FL, 8:30 p.m.
June 30: Martinique vs Panama – Red Bull Arena, Harrison, NJ, 6:30 p.m.
June 30: El Salvador vs Costa Rica – Red Bull Arena, Harrison, NJ, 8:30 p.m.
July 4: Costa Rica vs Martinique – Red Bull Arena, Harrison, NJ, 8:30 p.m.
July 4: Panama vs El Salvador – Shell Energy Stadium, Houston, TX, 8:30 p.m.
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COSTA RICA [CRC/C1]
Head Coach: Luis Fernandez Suarez (COL)
FIFA Ranking: 39 Nickname: Los Ticos
Qualification: CNL A Flight Group B Runners-up
Appearance: 16th / Best Finish: Runners-up (2002)
Roster Breakdown: 17 Domestic, 1 Colombia, 1 Spain, 1 Portugal, 1 Greece, 1 Turkey, 1 Sweden
Recent Matches: Friendly L vs Ecuador 1-3 (Chester, PA); Friendly L vs Guatemala 0-1 (Carson, CA)
Player To Know/Watch: FWD Joel Campbell, Alajuelense (CRC), 122 Int’l Caps / 25 Int’l Goals
This is a rather young roster, with just the former Arsenal man Campbell, midfielder Celso Borges and MLS veterans Kendall Waston and Francisco Calvo leading a roster that features a lot players who are uncapped or have under 10 international appearances.
Costa Rica just finished second behind Panama in the CNL but did notch a win at the World Cup. This roster overall seems like it’s closer to the team that lost to Spain 7-0 than beat Japan 1-0 and were leading Germany in the second half. We’ll have to see what this new guard can do to see if the Ticos can maintain their place among the top of CONCACAF.
EL SALVADOR [SLV/C3]
Head Coach: Hugo Perez (USA)
FIFA Ranking: 75 Nickname: Los Cuscatlecos
Qualification: CNL A Flight Group D Runners-up
Appearance: 13th / Best Finish: Quarterfinals (6 times)
Roster Breakdown: 11 Domestic, 7 USA/Canada (MLS/USL), 2 Costa Rica, 2 Colombia, Italy
Recent Matches: Friendly Loss at Japan 0-6, Friendly Draw at South Korea 1-1
Players To Know: DEF Alex Roldan, Seattle Sounders (USA/MLS); DEF Eriq Zavaleta, LA Galaxy (USA/MLS)
El Salvador are who we think they are – a disciplined, well coached outfit that are frustrating to break down and are always a threat to get into the knockouts but rarely a threat to win the quarterfinal matchup. El Salvador has a tricky group to navigate but if Costa Rica isn’t at full strength or they can nab a result against Panama, four points might be enough to make the quarters.
Head Coach: Marc Collat (MTQ)
FIFA Ranking: N/A Nickname: Les Matinino
Qualification: CNL A Flight Group B Third Place, Qualifier Winner
Appearance: 8th / Best Finish: Quarterfinals (2002)
Roster Breakdown: 10 Domestic, 10 France, 1 Czechia, 1 Hungary, 1 Switzerland
Recent Matches: Gold Cup Qualifiers, W 3-1 vs Saint Lucia, W 2-0 vs Puerto Rico (matches played in Fort Lauderdale, FL)
Player To Know: MID Daniel Herelle, Samartaine (MTQ), 89 Int’l Caps / 3 Int’l Goals
Player To Watch: FWD Enrick Reuperne, Assaut Saint Pierre (MTQ), 7 Int’l Caps
So Herelle has played a significant percentage of all the international matches combined on this roster and Reuperne is the son of Fabrice which I bring up so I can mention his dad’s absolute thunderbastard walk off winner against Canada in the 2013 Gold Cup which I do every year Martinique qualifies.
Martinique has a history of notching at least one win in the group stage at the Gold Cup, but ran into a stacked group last year in USA, Canada, and Haiti and walked away with nothing. I fear they might in line for a similar fate though they did hold Panama to a scoreless draw at home in the CNL. Maybe there’s some magic here for a team that is clearly good enough to be in the tournament field as a classic yo-yo team between the CNL A and B Flights but with only 1 goal scored from four games against Panama and Costa Rica in their CNL group I think it’s fair to question where the goals are coming from to secure a full three points.
Head Coach: Thomas Christiansen (DEN)
FIFA Ranking: 58 Nickname: Los Canaleros
Qualification: CNL A Flight Group B Winners
Appearance: 11th / Best Finish: Runners-up (2005, 2013)
Roster Breakdown: 1 Domestic, 3 Costa Rica, 2 USA/MLS, 2 Venezuela, 2 Slovakia, 2 Peru, 2 Chile, 1 Azerbaijan, 1 Belgium, 1 Ecuador, 1 Germany, 1 Guatemala, 1 Honduras, 1 Mexico, 1 Portugal, 1 Saudi Arabia
Recent Matches: Friendly W 3-2 vs Nicaragua, CNL Semi L 0-2 vs Canada, CNL Third Place L 0-1 vs Mexico
Player To Know/Watch: MID Anibal Godoy, Nashville SC (USA/MLS), 126 Int’l Caps / 4 Int’l Goals
This is not the golden generation of Blas Perez and Jaime Penedo and the rest of the Canaleros old guard that made the World Cup in 2018. Godoy however is a tremendous player in MLS but as we saw in the CNL Finals, there’s not a lot of goals on this roster and the only multi-goal scorer in the CNL group play was a late brace by Yoel Barcenas in a 5-0 blowout of Martinique.
From 2005-2019 Panama not only qualified for the Gold Cup (they had only ever had two total appearances all time in the CONCACAF regional tournament of various iterations), but made the knockouts in four of the eight tournaments in that span with two finals losses. They were eliminated in the group stage on four points in 2021 behind Qatar and Honduras but if their CNL group form holds true, they’re the favorites in this group though I wouldn’t put them to go much further than the quarters.
There could be a lot of low scoring games here between the top three. Martinique stealing any points from someone here could be the true difference to decide the top two, but if comes down to goal difference or goals scored, it’s going to be tight. Panama is the favorite but give me the consistent and organized Salvadorians led by Hugo Perez to grind out enough points for second over the Ticos. Depending on how the bracket develops though, don’t be surprised to see both Group C teams eliminated in the quarters by their Group B counterparts.
Panama / El Salvador / Costa Rica / Martinique