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The CONCACAF Gold Cup has reached the semi-final stage, and we’ve been following the tournament all the way through. After a couple of great results in the quarter-finals we earned a nice bit of profit, and it’s time to turn our attention to the last four in search of more winners.
Quite predictably, the two heavy favourites for the competition – USA and Mexico – have made their way to the final quartet, although it’s been plain sailing for the USA compared to Mexico’s rocky road. Jamaica were earmarked as an outsider here on SBO, and they’ve upset the odds to reach the last four for the first time since 1998. Panama had never reached a semi-final until 2011, but this is now the third time in the last three tournaments that they’ve graced the last four.
USA were handed the plum tie against rank outsiders Cuba in the quarter-finals, and they progressed with the minimum of fuss smashing six past their opponents. Clint Dempsey notched a hat-trick in the game, and he looks set to be tournament top scorer with six goals to his name already.
Mexico had a much tougher time of things, admittedly against a tougher opponent in Costa Rica. They were held to a 0-0 draw in normal time – a draw that we tipped – but went through in dramatic fashion with a penalty deep into stoppage time at the end of the second period of extra-time.
Jamaica were another of our quarter-final tips, and they scored their third 1-0 win in four Gold Cup matches as they knocked out Haiti. Panama make up the four semi-finalists after scraping through on penalties against Trinidad and Tobago. The two big sides have been kept apart in the last four, with Jamaica set to face USA and Panama taking on Mexico. Here are the current match odds for the two games:
USA v Jamaica 23:00 (BST) Wednesday 22nd July
USA – -188 with Bwin
Draw – +320 with PaddyPower
Jamaica have confounded expectations to reach the semi-finals, and they will have their eye on causing an upset against USA. Former Derby County prodigy Giles Barnes scored the all-important winner for the Reggae Boyz against Haiti, and he’s turned his career around since joining Houston Dynamo. He now has eight caps and two goals for his country, and has been bullish about Jamaica’s chances against USA. He believes they have a ‘special group’ and will give USA a stern challenge despite being underdogs. They won their group ahead of Costa Rica, Canada and El Salvador with two wins and a draw, and they have also kept clean sheets in the last three games since conceding twice against Costa Rica in the opening 2-2 draw.
USA are a very strong side in the context of this competition though, and it remains to be seen if Jamaica can hold out against them. The Americans also topped their group with 7 points and were never really extended in doing so. They wiped the floor with Cuba in the quarter-final, and they will be keen to make their sixth consecutive final appearance. USA coach Jurgen Klinsmann laid down the gauntlet to his players prior to the quarter-final, saying his side were the ‘team to beat’ in the competition, and the players didn’t let him down. It was one-way traffic after Dempsey opened the scoring after 4 minutes, and the result never looked in doubt. The scoreline issued a signal of their intent, and it’s hard to look past them in this game.
USA have won the last three matches between the two teams, and they are worth following to end the Jamaican dream on Wednesday night.
Mexico v Panama 02:00 (BST) Thursday 23rd July
Panama – +440 with Betvictor
The other tie is a little more competitive, with Mexico up against a good Panama side who were losing finalists in 2013. They actually beat Mexico 2-1 in the semi-final of that tournament, before going down to USA in the final, so there is a case for Mexican revenge here. El Tri have won both meeting since then, and they are a fair bet to win in the small hours of Thursday morning.
We tipped Mexico for title but they’ve made hard work of getting to this stage so far. It started superbly with the 6-0 win over Cuba, but they were held to a frustrating 0-0 draw by Guatemala which proved to be a sign of things to come. It was an equally frustrating, but much more entertaining, 4-4 draw with Trinidad & Tobago that saw them finish second in the group with five points. That left them with a tough opponent in the quarter-final, and it’s worth remembering that Costa Rica were the clear third-favourites before the tournament began. It proved to be another uninspiring 0-0 draw with Costa Rica, who actually drew all four games they played at this year’s competition, but they squeezed through with the ultimate late show. The official time on the clock when Guardado’s penalty hit the back of the net was 124 minutes, and Costa Rica had no time to recover to force a penalty shootout.
Panama are another side which has drawn all four games at the tournament, and they had to rely on penalties to overcome Trinidad & Tobago in their quarter-final. Incredibly, they’ve drawn each game by a 1-1 scoreline, although there is still a suspicion that they might not have held USA in the group stage if USA had needed a result.
Both teams have drawn five of their last six matches, so the draw makes obvious appeal. Mexico are likely to be on the front foot here and it may be a question of whether they can break down the Panama defence. They drew blanks against Guatemala and Costa Rica, but scored 10 goals in two games against Cuba and Trinidad & Tobago. If the Mexicans can find the net they’ll be hard to peg back, so we’re backing them to come out on top over 90 minutes this time.
CONCACAF Gold Cup Semi-Finals:
USA – -188 with Bwin
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