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The CONCACAF Gold cup started this week, with the first matches held last night. The international competition for countries from North America, Central America, and the Caribbean features three groups of four, vying for eight quarter-final spots. The top two in each group will progress, along with the top two third-placed finishers.
Perennial hosts, USA, got off to a flyer in their first game, and Canada look an excellent bet to repeat the trick when they open their account against El Salvador in the early hours of Thursday morning (BST).
There were two matches played last night, with the USA running out 2-1 victors against Honduras. Former Fulham striker Clint Dempsey is still doing the business for the national side, and he bagged both goals to stake an early claim for tournament top scorer. The other match in Group A was a 1-1 draw between Haiti and Panama, a result that will suit the USA as they look to top the group, but also may have done Honduras a favour as they look to finish best of the rest. Here’s the full breakdown of the three groups:
Group A – USA, Panama, Haiti, Honduras
Group B – Costa Rica, Canada, El Salvador, Jamaica
Group C – Mexico, Cuba, Guatemala, Trinidad & Tobago
Thursday 9th July
01:00 (BST) Costa Rica v Jamaica
The first of the games in the early hours of Thursday morning is between Costa Rica and Jamaica, and although Costa Rica are a shade of odds-on to win the game, there looks to be much more value in the draw. These two nations have drawn 5 of the last 8 contests, including the most recent in September 2013.
It’s hard to gauge just how good Costa Rica were at last year’s World Cup, and whether they should be justified as favourites. The European sides were always going to find it tough in the heat in South America, and so it proved as they and Uruguay went through at the expense of Italy and England. They knocked out Greece in the second round on penalties, before going out on spot kicks themselves to Holland in the quarter-final. They defended very well, but it’s open to question whether it was a perfect storm of circumstances that contributed to their good run.
That may be pure speculation, but Jamaica are another side who can defend very well, and they will be battle-hardened after playing thrice in the Copa America. That resulted in three 1-0 losses to Paraguay, Argentina and Uruguay, but there is no huge disgrace in those scorelines. This is probably the most competitive group, featuring Canada as well, and an opening stalemate could well be on the cards.
Draw – +240 with Coral
03:30 (BST) El Salvador v Canada
Canada are jointly-hosting this tournament, although their opening game is in Carson. They won’t get back to Toronto until the final group match, but they can still be backed to get off to the perfect start here.
The Canadians are on a run of four straight victories – admittedly against Dominica (twice), Puerto Rico and Guatemala – but they are up against a side who have lost six of their last ten internationals. Canada will have huge motivation to perform well in this tournament, with the success of the Women’s World Cup in the country, fresh in the memory. The Canadian Women reached the quarter-finals of that competition, and the men will want to at least emulate their achievements – especially in front of their own fans.
They’ve won the last three meeting between the two countries, and at a price of above evens, look worth following to take all three points.
Friday 10th July
00:00 (BST) Trinidad & Tobago v Guatemala
02:30 (BST) Mexico v Cuba
The two games on Friday include our tip for the title in Mexico, and they are worth a punt to rack up a big score against competition minnows, Cuba. The Cubans are the +150000 rank outsider in this competition, and are expected to struggle as much as the odds suggest they will.
The last time these two nations shared a Gold Cup group was in 2011, with Mexico running out 5-0 winners when they met. Cuba conceded 16 goals and managed just one in three games against the Mexicans, Costa Rica and El Salvador. Their appearance in the 2013 competition at least yielded one victory over Belize, but they also went down to a 3-0 defeat to Costa Rica and a 4-1 defeat to USA.
As well as Mexico, the group also contains Guatemala and Trinidad and Tobago, and while Cuba might fancy their chances of getting something from those games, they have little hope of getting a results against Mexico. If you read our preview of the tournament, you’ll know that Mexico sent a weakened squad to the Copa America, holding back the big guns for this competition, and they will be looking to get off to the best possible start.
As well as that 5-0 win, Mexico have also beaten Cuba 3-0 and 4-1 in recent games, and it appears to be nailed on that they will score goals. At the odds it’s difficult to find much value, as Mexico are a best price of -1200 to win the game, and are as short as -275 to be winning at half-time and full-time. One would expect both of those bets to come in easily, but the odds make no appeal.
Mexico -3 Handicap – +165 with Coral
One suspects that Mexico on a -3 handicap might represent a little bit of value and a decent punt for this match. They’ve beaten Cuba by at least three goals in 3 of the last 5 meetings, and it’s hard to see them conceding. If they open up an early lead, they could easily go on to rack up a hatfull.
CONCACAF Gold Cup, Thursday 9th/Friday 10th July
Costa Rica v Jamaica – Draw – +240 with Coral
Mexico -3 Handicap – +165 with Coral
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