Curacao holds head high after first Gold Cup
Curacao players (pictured) gather for a team photo prior to their CONCACAF Gold Cup match against Mexico on July 16, 2017, in San Antonio, Texas, USA. (Photo: AFP)

SAN ANTONIO, Texas – Curacao players, coaches and staff met -- and locked arms -- forming a circle at midfield.  Head coach Remko Bicentini stood in the middle and spoke.  Those were the final moments of their first-ever trip to the CONCACAF Gold Cup.

The Caribbean champion fell to Mexico at the Alamodome on Sunday, dropping its third straight 2-0 decision.  Despite not registering a win or scoring a goal, Bicentini had no regrets.

“It’s very special.  What you saw out there is a family,” said the 49-year-old.  “We are seven weeks down the road now.  We’ve won the Caribbean cup and now we are playing in the Gold Cup.”

Against Mexico, Curacao hit the woodwork twice and had other efforts saved goalkeeper Jesus Corona.  It was an effort Bicentini will accept for a team that was missing key players, including team captain Cuco Martina. The defender left after the first games to finalize a contract with English Premier League side Everton.

No excuses were being offered, but there were expressions of pride.

“We’ve learned a lot, especially the players from the experience we had,” Bicentini commented.  “We’ve played against very good countries in big stadiums.  At this level, we can compete and we’ve shown that.  But what counts is to make one more goal than your opponent.  We are leaving here with a good feeling.  We made it very difficult on Mexico.”

And regarding the post-match huddle, midfielder Leandro Bacuna wouldn’t reveal entirely what was said.

“That’s between us,” he finished.  “We were just thanking God that we made it and just saying that we got to keep working hard for the next (Gold Cup).”

With such a positive attitude, Curacao is already well on its way to a Gold Cup return.