MIAMI, Florida – For the first time ever, the Concacaf Gold Cup will include a Preliminary Round in which 12 teams will battle to earn one of three spots in the 16-team 2021 Gold Cup group stage.
Monday’s 2021 Gold Cup Draw yielded a number of interesting pairings in the Prelims, including Saint Vincent and the Grenadines squaring off against Haiti.
“It’s a good draw for us,” said Vincy Heat Head Coach Kendale Mercury. “We have done some work on the Haitian team already, so that’s an advantage for us. We are aspiring to get to the top of Concacaf, so we must play the top teams. Haiti will be a good test for us.”
Another match-up that should offer up plenty of intrigue is Guatemala taking on Guyana. Los Chapines are motivated to return to their first Gold Cup since 2015, but know a tough opponent awaits in the Golden Jaguars.
“Guyana played in the previous Gold Cup, so they have that experience,” said Guatemala Head Coach Amarini Villatoro. “I don’t believe there are any weak opponents and Guyana are very worthy of once again being here, as evidenced by their results in the Nations League, which included a draw with Jamaica.”
But in order for Guyana to return to a second straight Gold Cup, Head Coach Marcio Maximo knows that they must navigate their way past a difficult Guatemala side.
“Guatemala are a very strong opponent and among the most experienced teams in my view, but I think with a good preparation, we can be a surprise for Guatemala,” said Maximo.
One of the revelations in Concacaf in recent years has been Montserrat, who nearly qualified for the 2019 Gold Cup and now take aim at Trinidad and Tobago in their Prelim match-up. Head Coach Willie Donachie says his players relish taking on the bigger teams in the region and a date with the Soca Warriors will be no different.
“Whatever happened for us was going to be exciting because a small country like Montserrat playing against any of the bigger teams is a great challenge and the bigger the team, the better. It’ll be fantastic for us and a great challenge,” said Donachie.
Back in the Gold Cup mix for the first time since the 2017 group stage is French Guiana, who will face Cuba in the Prelims. Head Coach Thierry Albert De Neef of Les Yana Dokos knows that a Cuba side that have played in four of the previous five Gold Cups will be a tall task.
“I don’t think the match will be easy for us. We have to play with determination and conviction and we must believe in our qualities,” said De Neef.
Match 5 will see Guadeloupe and Bahamas do battle and Guadeloupe Head Coach Jocelyn Angloma, who led Les Gwada Boys to the 2007 Gold Cup semifinals, is ready to begin preparing for the Baha Boyz.
“It’s a good draw, we don’t know Bahamas well, but we will watch and study them and will be excited to play,” said Angloma.
Similar to Angloma and Guadeloupe, Bahamas Head Coach Nesley Jean is a former player now in charge of his national team and hopes to have his players showcase their skills on a big stage.
“I think it’s a good draw and it’s a great opportunity for us to compete. It’s an honor to play in a huge tournament against a good team. We will have challenges, but it gives us a chance to demonstrate our ability on a certain level,” said Jean.
Rounding out the Gold Cup Prelims is an interesting contest between Bermuda and Barbados. Fresh off of their first Gold Cup in 2019, including a first ever Gold Cup win, Bermuda Head Coach Kyle Lightbourne knows that if previous encounters with Barbados are any indication, a tight 90 minutes between the two are to be expected.
“It’s a difficult draw for us. We have had some tough matches over the years against Barbados and this one could go either way, so we will have to prepare right and may the best team win on the day,” said Lightbourne.
As for Barbados Head Coach Russell Latapy, the goal is to qualify the Bajan Tridents for a first ever Gold Cup, but that, first, Bermuda will pose a stiff test in the Prelims.
“We’re looking forward to it. We’ve never qualified for a major tournament and this is an opportunity for us, we’re going to make every effort to move up in the football world. Barbados football needs to qualify for a major tournament. We have talented players and they need an opportunity to showcase themselves,” said Latapy.