2021 Gold Cup Preview: Odds, picks and must-watch matches

A packed summer of international soccer continues with the Concacaf Gold Cup, the premier international competition for North and Central America.

Mexico comes into the tournament as the favorites and the most-decorated competitor, having won 11 of the tournament’s 25 iterations. The United States come in with a heavily rotated squad from their Nations League, looking to add their seventh title and take back the trophy after Mexico’s 2017 wins. Perennial contenders Jamaica and a Canada side on the rise will look to make their mark in the region ahead of a crucial fall World Cup qualifying schedule.

Format

The tournament will feature 16 teams split into four groups of four. As is standard for these types of competitions, the group will feature a round robin style format: three points for a win, one for a draw, and none for a loss. The top two sides from each group will advance to the knockout rounds.

Group A

Mexico 🇲🇽 (FIFA Ranking: 11)

The outlook: Manager Tata Martino made some slight changes to his squad following the Nations League, but this is still very close to an A team from El Tri. Mexico is under plenty of pressure to win, with Martino calling a trophy “an obligation”. Bringing such a strong squad makes the pressure even greater, and failure to win could well cost Martino his job.

Key players: Alfredo Talavera (UANM), Héctor Moreno (Monterrey), Héctor Herrera (Atlético Madrid), Rogelio Funes Mori (Monterrey)

Predicted XI (4-3-3): Talavera; L.Rodríguez, Moreno, Sepúlveda, O.Rodríguez; Herrera, E.Álvarez, Gutiérrez; Corona, Funes Mori, Lozano

Predicted finish: 1st

Odds to win: +100

El Salvador 🇸🇻 (FIFA Ranking: 69)

The outlook: El Salvador have an exciting new crop of players coming through the ranks, with just nine players over the age of 26 on their squad. They’re in the midst of a great World Cup qualifying process, making it to the final “octagonal” round, and will have high hopes heading into the Gold Cup. With Mexico the clear favorite in Group A, El Salvador’s outlook to advance in second is bright.

Key players: Mario Martinez (Alianza), Eriq Zavaleta (Toronto FC), Darwin Cerén (Houston Dynamo), Alex Roldan (Seattle Sounders), Joaquín Rivas (FC Tulsa)

Predicted XI (4-1-4-1): Martinez; Tamascas, Domínguez, Gómez, Larín; Portillo; Henríquez, Cerén, Monterrosa, Perez; Rugamas

Predicted finish: 2nd

Odds to win: +8000

Trinidad & Tobago 🇹🇹 (FIFA Ranking: 103)

The outlook: Trinidad are an aging squad with an interim manager who haven’t lived up to the heights of years past. They’re never an easy side to play against, but are at a talent deficit with plenty of off-field distractions. They’re in rebuilding mode, and could use a strong showing as a springboard for the 2026 World Cup qualifying cycle.

Key players: Kevin Molino (Columbus Crew), Neveal Hackshaw (Indy Eleven), Ryan Telfter (Atletico Ottowa)

Predicted XI (4-2-3-1): Foncette; David, Bateu, J.Garcia, Williams; Hyland, Hackshaw; Molino, Muckette, L.Garcia; Telfer

Predicted finish: 3rd

Odds to win: +10000

Guatemala 🇬🇹 (FIFA Ranking: 127)

The outlook: If you want a #RootForChaos candidate, look no further than Guatemala. Called in as a last-second replacement for Covid-stricken Curaçao, they were given a two-day run up to put together a squad and get ready for their opening match against El Salvador. To further complicate matters, the federation just fired their entire coaching staff three days ago… it’s an insane situation and stacks the odds against Los Chapines.

Key players: Squad TBA

Predicted XI (4-2-3-1): Squad TBA

Predicted finish: 4th

Odds to win: +10000

Group B

United States 🇺🇸 (FIFA Ranking: 20)

The outlook: Manager Gregg Berhalter has called in a heavily rotated squad from the side that won the Nations League. He’ll use this tournament as a testing ground for players to make their claim for spot on the back end of the World Cup qualifying roster. Even so, this is still a talented side who have the added benefit of playing at home. Anything less than an appearance in the final would be a disappointment.

Key players: Matt Turner (New England Revolution), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC), Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy), Paul Arriola (DC United) Daryl Dike (Orlando City)

Predicted XI (4-3-3): Turner; Cannon, Zimmerman, Robinson, Vines; Acosta, Lletget, Busio; Arriola, Dike, Hoppe

Predicted finish: 1st

Odds to win: +140

Canada 🇨🇦 (FIFA Ranking: 70)

The outlook: Canada are in the midst of arguably the most exciting period in their national team history. A wave of young talent has seen players at the highest level, headlined by Alphonso Davies at Bayern Munich. Davies was withdrawn from the tournament with an injury, but there’s still a lot of exciting quality in this squad. Manager John Herdman will use this tournament to continue refining his squad for a World Cup qualifying run in the fall.

Key players: Maxime Crépeau (Vancouver Whitecaps), Steven Vitória (Moreirense), Samuel Piette (CF Montréal), Mark-Anthony Kaye (LAFC), Kyle Larin (Beşiktaş),

Predicted XI (3-5-2): Crépeau; Miller, Vitória, Kennedy; Johnston, Eustáquio, Osorio, Kaye, Laryea; Larin, Cavallini

Predicted finish: 2nd

Odds to win: +1400

Haiti 🇭🇹 (FIFA Ranking: 83)

The outlook: Haiti qualified via the play-in round, and have consistently played the role of dark horse at this competition. Domestically, there are other pressing issues, with president Jovenel Moise assassinated in his home last Friday. Haiti were knocked out of World Cup qualifying by Canada in the second round, and will have a bit of a grudge in their opening match. While they have the odds stacked against them, a result in their first match would dramatically increase their chances of advancing.

Key players: Josué Duverger (Vitória), Carlens Arcus (AJ Auxerre), Derrick Etienne (Columbus Crew), Duckens Nason (Sint-Truden)

Predicted XI (4-4-2): Duverger; Arcus, Lafrance, Ade, Experiénce; Etienne, Alceus, Pierre, Saba; Nazon, Pierrot

Predicted finish: 3rd

Odds to win: +10000

Martinique 🇲🇶 (FIFA Ranking: N/A)

The outlook: As a non-FIFA member, Martinique can’t participate in the World Cup. The Gold Cup, then, has even more importance for this country. They have a solid track record of qualifying, and this summer will mark their seventh tournament. They haven’t played a match yet in 2021, and are a bit of an unknown, but will be hard to write off as an easy win for any of these Group B sides.

Key players: Loïc Chauvet (Golden Lion), Jean-Sylvain Babin (Sporting de Gijón), Kévin Fortuné (AJ Auxerre), Daniel Hérelle (AS Samaritaine), Emmanuel Rivière (Crotone)

Predicted XI (4-1-4-1): Chauvet; Barthéléry, Crétinoir, Babin, Thimon; Vitulin; Marajo, Hérelle, Jougon, Burner; Rivière

Predicted finish: 4th

Odds to win: +10000

Group C

Jamaica 🇯🇲 (FIFA Ranking: 45)

The outlook: Jamaica come into the tournament on the back of a really tough schedule, and are a favorite dark horse pick. They’ve historically performed very well in this competition, reaching the final in 2015 and 2017, and the semifinal in 2019. They had a load of talented players anyway, but have had a wave of dual-nationals out of England switch to the Reggae Boyz. On their day, they can be one of the more entertaining sides in the region and could upset some of the bigger names.

Key players: Andre Blake (Philadelphia Union), Michael Hector (Fulham), Kemar Lawrence (Toronto FC), Daniel Johnson (Preston North End), Ravel Morrison (free agent), Leon Bailey (Bayer Leverkusen), Bobby Decordova-Reid (Fulham)

Predicted XI (4-4-2): Blake; Powell, Hector, Moore, Bell; Turgott, Johnson, Morrison, Bailey; Gray, Decordova-Reid

Predicted finish: 1st

Odds to win: +1400

Suriname 🇸🇷 (FIFA Ranking: 136)

The outlook: Suriname just missed out on the Octagonal, and while they’re a relative minnow, they’re sneakily difficult to play against. Prior to their loss to Canada, they beat Cayman Islands, Aruba and Bermuda by a score of 15-0. In a group as wide open as C, they’ll like their chances to upset a Costa Rica or Jamaica and advance out of second.

Key players: Wamer Hahn (free agent), Kelvin Leerdanm (Inter Miami CF), Ryan Donk (Galatasaray), Seraldo Becker (Union Berlin)

Predicted XI (4-3-3): Hahn; Leerdam, Donk, Klaiber, Haps; Donald, Eduard, Koolwijk; Becker, Hasselbaink, Biesewar

Predicted finish: 2nd

Odds to win: +15000

Costa Rica 🇨🇷 (FIFA Ranking: 50)

The outlook: This has been the most disappointing Costa Rica side in recent memory. They failed to qualify for the Olympics, were bland in the Nations League, and have a huge uphill fight to qualify for the World Cup. There’s talent in the squad, but the tactics were almost non-existent and regressive under manager Ronald Gonzalez. He was fired after the Nations League, and Luis Fernando Suárez will have a chance to turn things around before the Octagonal.

Key players: Leonel Moreira (Alajuelense), Giancarlo González (LA Galaxy), Francisco Calvo (Chicago Fire), Celso Borges (Deportivo de La Coruña), Joel Campbell (Monterrey)

Predicted XI (5-3-2): Moreira; Oviedo, Calvo, González, Duarte, Fuller; Cruz, Tejada, Guzmán; Campbell, Venegas

Predicted finish: 3rd

Odds to win: +1100

Guadeloupe 🇬🇵 (FIFA Ranking: N/A)

The outlook: Like Martinique, Guadeloupe is a member of the French overseas department and not FIFA affiliated. The Gold Cup holds extra importance, and their squad is filled with dual nationals who came through French youth systems. They have played just two matches in 2021, beating Guatemala in the preliminary rounds in an epic penalty shootout. They’re certainly not favorites, but in a wide open group have a decent shot at advancing.

Key players: Yohann Thuram-Ulien (Amiens), Mickaël Alphonse (Amiens), Dimitri Cavaré (FC Sion), Matthias Phaeton (Guingamp)

Predicted XI (5-3-2): Thuram-Ulien; Alphonse, Hauterville, Solvet, Baron, Irep; Cavaré, Malpon, Saint-Maximin; Mirval, Phaeton

Predicted finish: 4th

Odds to win: +25000

Group D

Honduras 🇭🇳 (FIFA Ranking: 67)

The outlook: Fresh off a Nations League semifinal appearance, Honduras are preparing for a run at World Cup qualification. They’ve been a Top 10 side in Concacaf for the last decade or more, and have a well drilled tactical identity that makes them incredibly hard to break down. With Alberth Elis and Romel Quioto up top, they’re a constant danger on the counter and a dark horse in the knockout rounds.

Key players: Luis López (Real España), Maynor Figueroa (Houston Dynamo), Kevin Álvarez (IFK Norrköping), Bryan Acosta (FC Dallas), Alberth Elis (Boavista), Carlos Fernández (Motagua)

Predicted XI (4-4-2): López; Álvarez, Pereira, Figueroa, Rodríguez; Fernández, Acosta, Flores, Quioto; Elis, Bengston

Predicted finish: 1st

Odds to win: +1400

Qatar 🇶🇦 (FIFA Ranking: 58)

The outlook: Yeah… that’s not a typo. The 2022 World Cup hosts are playing as much as possible to get ready for their big moment. Originally slated as a guest in Copa America, Covid issues scrapped those plans, and they’ll round out the Gold Cup. With an entirely domestic based squad, they’re very much an unknown, but have had solid results in Asian Cup qualifying and drew Ireland in a friendly early this season.

Key players: Saad Al Sheeb (Al-Sadd), Ró-Ró (Al-Sadd), Abdelkarim Hassan (Al-Sadd), Karim Boudiaf (Al-Duhail), Hassan Al-Haydos (Al-Sadd)

Predicted XI (5-2-1-2): Al Sheeb; Ró-Ró, Salman, Al-Rawi, Hassan, Ahmed; Hatem, Boudiaf; Al-Haydos; Afif, Ali

Predicted finish: 2nd

Odds to win: +2800

Panama 🇵🇦 (FIFA Ranking: 78)

The outlook: Panama are unbeaten in their last six matches against Concacaf opposition, going back to a 6-2 loss to the U.S. in November 2020. They’re in a bit of a transition from their golden generation to a crop of younger players, and while they lack the top-end talent of some of their other Concacaf neighbors, they’re well disciplined and tactically savvy. They’ll be without key midfielder Aníbal Godoy, who withdrew with a calf injury, and will ask 22-year-old Adalberto Carrasquilla to pick up the slack.

Key players: Luis Mejía (Atlético Fénix), Harold Cummings (Always Ready), Andrés Andrade (LASK), Adalberto Carrasquilla (Cartagena), Gabriel Torres (UNAM)

Predicted XI (4-2-3-1): Meija; Murillo, Cummings, Andrade, Davis; Carrasquilla, Yanis; Rodríguez, Bárcenas, Quintero; Torres

Predicted finish: 3rd

Odds to win: +4000

Grenada 🇬🇩 (FIFA Ranking: 160)

The outlook: Like many Concacaf nations, Grenada are looking to make a push into the top tier of Concacaf teams with a wave of dual nationals from England. They’re back in the Gold Cup for the first time since 2011. Their only two Gold Cup appearances resulted in six losses and 25 goals conceded The lowest-ranked side in the competition, they’ll have an uphill battle to advance from the group and could be doomed to repeat their past performances.

Key players: Jason Belfon (Paradise), Omar Beckles (Leyton Orient), A.J. Patterson (Charleston Battery), Tyrone Sterling (Concord Rangers), Saydrel Lewis (Paradise)

Predicted XI (4-2-3-1): Belfon; Sterling, Paul, Pierre, Theodore; Ettienne, German; Frank, Lewis, Noel-Williams; Paterson

Predicted finish: 4th

Odds to win: +15000

Must-watch matches

Mexico vs Trinidad – Saturday, July 10 – 9 PM central – FS1/Univision

United States vs Haiti – Sunday, July 11 – 8 PM central – FS1/Univision

Jamaica vs Suriname – Monday, July 12 – 5:30 PM central – FS1/TUDN

United States vs Canada – Sunday, July 18 – 4 PM central – FOX/Univision

Costa Rica vs Jamaica – Tuesday, July 20 – 6 PM central – FS1/UniMás

Honduras vs Qatar – Tuesday, July 20 – 8 PM central – FS1/UniMás

Pod picks

Ben Wright

Winner: Mexico
Runner-up: United States
Dark horse: Suriname
Golden Boot: Rogelio Funes Mori

Jonathan Slape

Winner: Mexico
Runner-up: United States
Dark horse: Suriname
Golden Boot: Daryl Dike

Andy Simmons

Winner: United States
Runner-up: Mexico
Dark horse: Canada
Golden Boot: Chucky Lozano

Bracket

How to watch

FOX Sports has the English language rights, while TUDN will broadcast the tournament in Spanish. FOX will broadcast every match on FS1 or FS2, with the United States against Canada on July 18 set to air on FOX.

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