The Gold Cup 2013 preview

With the Confederations Cup now done and dusted there will be many of you looking for any scrap of football to tied you over before the domestic season begins in August – step forward the Gold Cup. Ok so it might not be the most glamorous of occasions, but this is still a continental trophy.

The tournament in its Gold Cup form is still relatively young given that the 1991 contest held in The USA was the first to be played. The states have hosted all 13 tournaments since (although on two occasions they did share hosting responsibilities with Mexico, with this largely being down to a combination of the infrastructures and sizes of the other nations in the region.

Mexico and the US have been the dominant forces in past championships claiming between them ten of the eleven trophies that have been competed for; with the Mexicans leading the head to head by six to four. The two super power Central American Nations have contested the last three finals of which Mexico have won the last two. –

Despite recent World Cup qualification struggles Mexico will still be fancied by many – however it should be noted that their Gold Cup squad is made up entirely of home based players. This is the result of the Confederations Cup which has led the Mexican FA to pick an almost entirely different squad of players to those we witnessed in Brazil, with no player in the current squad possessing more than eleven caps. They will still be a test – the strength of the Mexican League should not be underestimated,  whilst with the World Cup a year away players will know they have the perfect opportunity to force their way into the reckoning – that said, there they will not possess the same aura they have done in previous tournaments.

Jurgen Klinsmann’s USA will therefore go into the tournament as overwhelming favourites, however they are also without the majority of their big names with the likes of; Brad Guzan, Clint Dempsey, Mike Bradley Tim Chandler and host of the other recognisable names not being selected. Whilst this is clearly a near second string squad such is the depth of American football these days that there is more than enough in the squad to lift the trophy and further to that crucially one or two of key players have been taken along such as defender Oguchi Onyewu. Landon Donovan having fallen out of selection favour is given the chance to stake a claim for a fourth World Cup appearance and there will be few defenses relishing the chance to face him, whilst another name keen to stake a claim will be Stuart Holden now his injury nightmares look behind him. Undoubtedly the overwhelming expectation will be that Klinsmann needs to bring home the trophy, nonetheless with the most to lose they must ensure complacency does not hit.

The Costa Rican’s have largely been a disappointment at the Gold Cup, despite being considered one of the regions better sides over the last decade – having made the World Cup in both 2002 and 2006 and only narrowly missing in 2010 following a playoff defeat to Uruguay. Despite this they have only reached the last four once in the previous four Gold Cup’s – this year though given the under strength American and Mexican sides they might have thought this could be the time. This hope would have been further enhanced by strong World Cup showings – they currently occupy second spot in the final round of qualification and therefore look certain to make Brazil. They are however like the two sides mentioned hit by missing several key names – most notably captain Bryan Ruiz and keeper Keylor Navas.The squad still possess talent of course, however they simply don’t have the depth the Americans and Mexicans have which could derail their campaign. They should still come through their group even with The States in it, from there though it is difficult to predict where their campaign will go.

Honduras will be the side favoured to come through group B, although they are again missing players with British based quartet Maynor Figueroa, Wilson Palacios, Roger Espinoza and Emilio Izaguirre all missing. The Hondurans unlike Costa Rica have past form with the tournament having been semi finalists three times in the last four tournaments and they will be hopeful of at least matching that again.

The remaining twelve sides will all feel the odds have been somewhat equalised as a result of the current big four’s weakened sides. Panama having reached the last four two years ago and having reached the final round of the World Cup qualification will be one of those keen to benefit, whilst having come through as winners of the Caribbean qualification section for this tournament Cuba will be looking to make it out of the group for the first time since 2003. El Salvador and Haiti both made the last eight in 2011 and they will be looking to reach the last four for the first time.

So undoubtedly this is a tournament hampered by weakened squads, which is unfortunately only inevitable given the timing of the tournament in relation to the start of Europe’s domestic season. That said it should still be fiercely competed and provide fans that little bit of football they need to keep them going until August and further to that we should one of the more open Gold Cup contests. The USA should win the tournament and in reality they have by far the most to lose here, with that in mind Klinsmann will probably be happy when this one is all over and fingers crossed the title is in the bag.