Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Scouting Report: Guadeloupe

By Clemente Lisi – Mention the name Guadeloupe in the context of the Gold Cup and the first thing that comes to mind is the word ‘upset.’ In its first-ever Gold Cup appearance in 2007, Guadeloupe reached the semifinals only to lose 1-0 to Mexico. Two years later, it reached the quarterfinals, eliminated by Costa Rica in a rollicking contest that ended 5-3. If anything, Guadeloupe knows how to fit into its Cinderella slippers and put a scare into CONCACAF opponents.

The USA, coming off a disappointing 2-1 loss to Panama on Saturday night in Tampa, will need to regroup and exert its dominance against Guadeloupe cone Tuesday night if it wants to emerge from Group C and reach the quarterfinals.

“It’s going to be the hard route to the final now but we’re ready for it, and we have to get this loss behind us and focus on the next game,” US defender Steve Cherundolo said.

To fully understand Guadeloupe’s soccer team and the success they’ve enjoyed over the last few years, you need to take a closer look at the tiny archipelago’s history and culture. Guadeloupe is not a member of FIFA because it is not a separate country. Technically an overseas department of France, those born in Guadeloupe can play for France. Yet Guadeloupe is a member of CONCACAF, and is eligible to compete at the Gold Cup. However, should Guadeloupe shock the tournament and win the Cup, they wouldn’t be eligible to advance to the Confederations Cup.

The group of islands may not be too large in size, but Guadeloupe remains a place that produces lots of quality players. In the past, the island has produced such talents as defender Lilian Thuram, who helped lead France to the 1998 World Cup.

“You have to remember, the island is not big,” New York Red Bulls striker Thierry Henry said. “The good players all play for the French National Team.” Henry’s father, Antoine, was born in Guadeloupe.

Under the rules established by CONCACAF, the Caribbean island is not allowed to field players who have played for France during the past five years. Anyone who played for France prior to 2006 is allowed to compete at this year’s Gold Cup.

Although only a handful of players who once wore France’s blue jersey (Jocelyn Angloma is one recent example) played for the island, Guadeloupe offers lower-league players who haven’t made the French National Team a chance to represent their home. Angloma now serves as an assistant coach for Guadeloupe and has been pivotal in recent years in helping recruit players for his homeland.

This year’s version of the Gwada Boys does not feature any big-name French stars. Making its third-ever Gold Cup appearance, Guadeloupe, as mentioned, has been the tournament’s Cinderella team in the past. Coached by Roger Salnot since 2001, Guadeloupe qualified for the Gold Cup after losing to Jamaica in the 2010 Digicel Caribbean Cup final on penalty kicks.

In their Gold Cup opener, Guadeloupe lost to Panama 3-2, but kept the game close when it scored both goals in the second half after falling behind 3-0. In their second game against Canada this past Saturday in Tampa, Guadeloupe lost 1-0 and showed very little offensively. If the US can shore up its defense and create in their attacking third, then a positive showing over Guadeloupe is very much possible.

“We have got to turn around and make sure that we are ready to play,” US midfielder Landon Donovan said after the Panama game. “We’ve got to win Tuesday, see what else happens and see where we end up. We’re still fine. We just have to make sure we learn some lessons.”

Five Things For Guadeloupe

Group C In Play: Nothing has been decided in Group C going into the final matchday. The United States could finish anywhere from 1st to 4th, with 2nd-place and a game against Jamaica the likeliest outcome from a US win. The US would need a Canada win and to beat Guadeloupe to take Group C and play Guatemala in the next round. A Canada win and a US draw with Guadeloupe is the only scenario that would have the US playing Mexico in the next round. Playing the scenarios isn’t likely to satisfy most US fans getting over the disappointment of the Panama game. The US should expect to be playing Jamaica after beating Guadeloupe, the likeliest outcome.

The US Attack: The United States was unable to capitalize on late opportunities against Panama. The chances were there, but the decisiveness wasn’t. Though there are usually moments in any game that allow a losing team to tell a different story than the actual result, the US had moments to at least pull level and salvage a point. The USA – Panama game wasn’t all Panama, but the difference was Panama taking advantage of their chances. For the US to have its own chance in this tournament, they have to figure out a way to turnaround their offense. Should the US advance, Guadeloupe is the easiest game left on their Gold Cup schedule. It’s an opportunity to build some confidence in an offense that needs to do more.

Fouls To Give: Against Panama, the US played a physical game that resulted in a penalty and some wondering why they finished with 11 players on the field. That’s not something normally associated with the US National Team, and it needs to be left with Panama. The US we’ve seen in competitions is used to absorbing attacks, playing in their own box, and taking calculated risks. That’s especially true for the back four. With two new players seeing time in the US defense, the group needs to figure out a way to recalculate those risks. All of the late chances the US had against Panama were unlikely had they been playing a man down, With a United States squad that isn’t particularly deep, they need a first choice eleven.


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