Articles related to CONCACAF 2006 WC qualifiers:
Preview Feb 18, 2004
Update Mar 4, 2004
Wrap-up Apr 12, 2004
Preview May 30, 2004
Wrap-up Jul 2, 2004
Preview Aug 9, 2004
Update Sep 20, 2004
Update Oct 26, 2004
Wrap-up Nov 30, 2004
Preview Feb 2, 2005
Update Feb 26, 2005
Update Apr 8, 2005
Update Jun 8, 2005
Update Aug 22, 2005
Update Sep 14, 2005
Wrap-up Oct 19, 2005
Preview Oct 29, 2005
Wrap-up Nov 19, 2005
Update: CONCACAF Hexagonal, Round 1
by Peter Goldstein
Trinidad & Tobago-USA
It was Carnival time in Trinidad, which meant epic traffic jams, wild communal dancing, and Dwight
Yorke. Fresh from having his drivers' license suspended in England (hardly fair--he was only tailgating
at 100 miles per hour), he announced he was ready to play for T&T, and descended on the Queen's
Park Oval in style. He started by showing a film in which he appeared in a black samurai suit, slaying a
fire-breathing dragon. Then he emerged in person, riding a flaming chariot. He shouted "No water could
out my fire," launched into a freestyle chant, left the stage while fire-eaters performed, came back in a
pyrosuit, and engulfed himself in flames while saluting the frenzied crowd.
(Think I made that last bit up? Not really--it's exactly what Bunji Garlin did while retaining his
International Soca Monarch title the weekend before the game. And for all we know, it really was
Dwight Yorke. Have you ever seen the two together?)
Things were a bit quieter in the USA camp; with the lockout/strike/nastiness over, the squad was there
to play, not party, and Bruce Arena didn't pull any major surprises. Eddie Johnson paired with Brian
McBride up front, Carlos Bocanegra played left back with Cory Gibbs taking his spot in the middle,
Eddie Lewis played left midfield with DaMarcus Beasley moving to the right, Pablo Mastroeni got the
call at DM, and Landon Donovan played in central midfield, running the attack.
Bertille St. Clair, though, had some new ideas. He dropped his usual 3-5-2 and went to a
conservative 4-4-2, with fullbacks Marlon Rojas and Anton Pierre pretty much riveted to the
back line. With Carlos Edwards at right midfield and new boy Leslie "Tiger" Fitzpatrick at left,
the plan was to send crosses and long balls to the strikers. That meant the up-front debut of
English-third-division sensation Kenwyne Jones, along with regular Stern John. And Yorke? Fire
or water, he got the key spot in attacking midfield behind the front line.
The first twenty minutes or so were pretty good for T&T. As expected, the Yanks had the majority of
possession, but the Warriors were showing a good deal of spirit, with some effective physical play. And
the long-ball strategy wasn't working badly at all. Jones and John were winning balls as often as not,
particularly against Gibbs. Yorke was playing well, digging both on attack and defense, and his header
forced Kasey Keller into the first save of the game. On the other hand, the USA offside trap kept the
strikers off rhythm, forcing them to play mostly back to goal.
At the other end the USA wasn't getting much accomplished. Centerbacks Marvin Andrews and Brent
Sancho were controlling the air, Rojas was fighting off Eddie Johnson, and although Donovan seemed
comfortable running the attack, there was no real threat to goal. But eventually T&T fell into their old
bad habit, giving the opposition too much room. Pablo Mastroeni drove a heavy 30-yarder that Hisloptipped over the bar. Johnson backheeled to Beasley, whose shot was blocked by Andrews. Donovan
took a through ball and missed from a narrow angle.
And the pressure finally told. In the 30th minute, Eddie Johnson made the simplest of runs in the box,
and Sancho and Andrews simply failed to follow him. Steve Cherundolo sent in a typically neat cross
from the right, and Johnson's textbook header left Hislop no chance.
At 0:1, T&T was down, not out, and stabilized themselves for the rest of the half. But the goal showed
they had very little margin for error, and a quick sequence early in the second half proved the point.
First McBride sent Johnson free on the right, and he slipped it to Donovan, with a clear shot at goal.
Donovan scores now and then, but he's not a natural finisher, and he only rolled it meekly into a
charging Hislop. So a minute later T&T had their one look at the game. Gibbs came out to mark Jones,
and Fitzpatrick darted into the hole to take a through ball one-on-one with Keller. Kasey hesitated for a
moment, then came out, and Fitzpatrick, fooled, couldn't get by. And the next minute came the
game-winner. A bad pass from John found Johnson with the ball again on the right, and again he
dropped it off to Donovan. But while Donovan may not be a finisher, he knows how to get the ball to
those who are--in this case Eddie Lewis, who buried a 25-yarder into the corner to Hislop's left. It was a
marvelous strike, the goal of the day, and appeared to put the seal on the game.
Twenty minutes later nothing had changed; the USA controlled the action, T&T was far from goal,
Yorke was winded, and fans on both sides were counting down the minutes. But in the 71st minute
MLSer Cornell Glen came on for Fitzpatrick, and suddenly the USA was barely holding on. Glen's pace
was too much for the defenders, who were tiring in the heat on the huge field. Angus Eve, who had
replaced an ineffective Anthony Rougier at halftime, was particularly incisive on runs and passes. At one
point John handled a cross where a chest trap might have meant a goal. Finally, in the 89th minute sub
Densil Theobald sent Eve to the by-line on the right; he sent in a hard low cross for John, and Keller
reached out his right hand and deflected it into the net for 1:2. As it turned out, T&T never had a chance
for the equalizer, but three minutes of extra time were about all the Americans could take.
As the USA slipped gratefully out of town, T&Ters weren't sure whether to be thrilled or furious. The
team had shown great fight--but they had lost at home. Cornell Glen had been spectacular--but he
should have come on much earlier. Yorke had been great--or terrible. Bunji Garlin was a true Soca
Monarch--or a charlatan. (OK, that one I made up.) And from the one and only Jack Warner: "I was in
good spirits, and not too disheartened by the result. Although it was not what I was expecting and
wanting, the team displayed more fight during some parts of the game than I had seen in a long time
and, quite frankly, the result should have been in our favor." Run that by us again, Jack?
(Oh, and P.S. Three days after the game Yorke, with T&T drivers' license apparently still intact, ran
his car off the road and crashed into a bunch of people sitting on a bench. No serious injuries, although a
couple of women may sue. But no one caught on fire.)
Debut time for the debutantes, and a generous schedule let them open against each other. The major
question was whether the Panama fans would respond--after all, they had stayed home in droves for the
big game against El Salvador. And they too were just recovering from Carnival. But no worries: the
marea roja lined up for hours, filled the stadium, and generally got themselves ready for a great game of
As for the players, they were paying the price for their success. Whereas in the past the whole team had
been readily available on short notice, Panama Mark II has its share of legionnaires, and at one point
Cheché Hernández had only 8 players to practice with. That didn't stop him from his usual
press-harassing act, and as always a few reporters spoiled the fun by complaining. Hey, guys, football is
for real men--cover baseball if you're too sensitive.
On the pitch, the only question was who would replace the suspended Ricardo "El Patón" Phillips at
right midfield. Hernandez chose Orlando "Papi" Rodríguez, a tall, technical player familiar from the
youth teams. And for the second straight time, he went with Carlos Rivera over Luís Henríquez at left
back, going with the more defensive option.
For his part, Ramón Maradiaga, concerned by recent defensive breakdowns, decided to shake things up.
In goal he went back to Ricardo Trigueño Foster, who had been on the bench since the disaster at Costa
Rica. More importantly, he changed for the first time to a 3-5-2. With centerback Gustavo Cabrera
suspended, it was Pablo Melgar, Nelson Morales, and Néstor Martínez left-to-right across the back.
Mario "El Loco" Rodríguez, normally right midfield, went to right wingback, and a returning Denis Chen
nabbed the left wingback spot from the less-experienced Angel Sanabria.
And that's about all of interest I have to tell you. The final was 0:0, and although the annals of football
contain plenty of exciting 0:0 games, this wasn't one of them. Panama played their usual aggressive
style, and had a majority of possession (particularly in the second half), but it was mostly hit and hope.
José Luís "El Pistolero" Garcés looked a handful every time he got near the ball, but Roberto Brown
had an off day (Blas Pérez, who eventually replaced him, was no better), and although Julio Medina was
trying his best to push the attack, the team never seemed to combine well up front. Papi Rodríguez
added little, and second-half substitute William Aguilar didn't do much either. The ball flew into the box
a lot, but ninety minutes produced not a single good chance from open play. The red tide in the stands
never got rolling, perhaps because there was nothing to roll about.
Guatemala was disastrous, really. If they ever managed to string more than two decent passes together, I
didn't see it. Maybe it was the 5-man midfield, but Pando Ramírez, their engine, never got into rhythm,
and Gonzalo Romero continued his run of spotty play. Carlos Ruiz was smothered by Felipe Baloy and
Co. Somehow the chapines managed the only two chances of the day--Chen, near the end of the first
half, and Rodríguez, near the beginning of the second, both were sent through alone. But both missed
badly, and I mean badly. The best performances were in defense. Morales, the replacement for Cabrera,
had an excellent game in the middle of the back three; Foster patrolled his area near-flawlessly, taking
every cross and throwing in a save on an Alberto Blanco bomb from somewhere around Nicaragua.
No one was happy afterwards. A Guatemalan headline said "If we keep playing this way, goodbye
Germany." Cheché accused his team of that ultimate Latin American trespass, el abuso del pelotazo,
too much long ball. But Brown and Garcés certainly won their share; they just couldn't hook up in the
area. And with El Patón out there wasn't enough punch in midfield. Both sides were upset at referee
Peter Prendergast (join the club!), who had allowed way too much rough play, and given out yellow
cards for the oddest of fouls. But most of the excuses were half-hearted. It had been a double stinker,
and there was nowhere to hide.
The big game of the day, and psychological warfare was in order. Costa Rica announced there would be
no smoking allowed on the field at the Saprissa, in order to protect the artificial turf. This was widely
interpreted as a attempt to unsettle Ricardo LaVolpe, who generally goes through 30 packs a game.
Reporters breathlessly asked the coach what he'd do. "I won't smoke," said LaVolpe. Take that, ticos!
But Costa Rica had to do something, because everytime they looked around another starter dropped out.
Midfielder Cristian Badilla (suspension) and striker Andy Herron (knee) were already unavailable, but
then Stephen Bryce injured his leg, and word came out of Italy that Gilberto Martínez had picked up a
knock and couldn't make the trip. Jorge Luís Pinto responded with characteristic unpredictability. He
replaced Badilla with Cristian Montero, only 22 years old. He replaced Herron with Rónald Gómez,
coming off a long-term injury and widely perceived as not match fit. Harold Wallace naturally filled in
for Martínez at right back, and Walter Centeno semi-logically took right midfield for Bryce, but Alonso
Solís, easily CR's best attacking midfielder during the semis, was dropped in favor of Jafet Soto, who
was having a strong run in the domestic league. Having successfully faked out most of CONCACAF,
Pinto took a bow and went into the stands to serve the first of his two-game red-card suspension.
For their part, Mexico was missing keeper Oswaldo Sánchez, but had all the outfield players healthy
except Jesus Arellano. Even Cuauhtémoc Blanco, left off the squad at first, said he'd give it a go. So
LaVolpe, never one to shy away from attack, started three forwards: Jared Borgetti in the middle, Kikín
Fonseca on the right, and Blanco nominally on the left but in his usual free role. With Gerardo Torrado
not yet up to speed in Spain, it was Pavel Pardo at midfield anchor. In a bit of a surprise, Rafa Márquez
went to the right of the back line; youngster Hugo Sánchez Guerrero had looked so good in the middle
that he kept the spot.
Not surprisingly, Mexico went forward from the start, and Costa Rica soon found themselves off
balance. Montero seemed a bit lost in midfield, and even the normally unflappable José Luís López was
getting beat. Luís Marín was holding his own in the middle of the back line, but with the Tri pressing for
every ball, CR was stuck in their own half. Pinto was shown peering through the mesh surrounding the
stands, as if in prison. A good omen for Mexico--still, no one could have expected what came next.
First, in the 8th minute, López got tangled up with Sinha about 25 yards out, a little to the right of center,
and referee Carlos Batres awarded the free kick. Keeper Álvaro Mesén appeared to leave too much
room to his left--and Jaime Lozano took all of it, rifling a free kick into the corner. 1:0 to Mexico. Less
than a minute later Salvador Carmona, free on the right, sent a lovely cross to the far post, and Lozano,
ghosting behind Centeno, responded with a perfect header. 2:0 to Mexico.
And for the next 35 minutes it was the baile folklorico, the famous Mexican folk dance celebration.
Backheels, long crossfield passes, combos, everything at the magic feet of a man in green. On defense
the Tri anticipated every pass, won every ball, delivered shirt-tight marking and highlight-reel tackles.
This was the Mexico of your dreams, the CONCACAF giant reborn. Even in the USA they were
shouting Olé! (Well, maybe not.) In such a spectacular team effort it's hard to name names, but on
attack the big man was Blanco, covering the whole field, creating like the madman of old. On defense,
let's mention Carlos Salcido, a revelation on the left of the back line, positioning himself perfectly,
breaking up passes, frustrating every Costa Rican move. And so, at the end of a glorious first half, with
really only one team on the field, the score was Mexico 2 Costa Rica 1.
You heard that right. What had happened? At one end Mexico let goals get away--in turn, Pardo, Sinha,
Borgetti, and Fonseca all had chances or half-chances and couldn't convert. At the other end, Costa
Rica didn't have any chances at all--but in the 37th minute they did get a corner. Centeno drove a hard
inswinger, putting sub keeper Oscar "Conejo" Pérez to the test. "Conejo" means rabbit, and that's a
good thing for a keeper to be: darting, quick off the mark. But rabbits are also a bit too easily scared,
and Pérez was a rabbit and a half. He hesitated, came out late, barely made contact, and flapped the ball
into the legs of an onrushing Paulo Wanchope. It caromed into the net, and the score was 2:1.
At halftime they let Pinto out of prison to see if he could come up with a saving strategy. His first move
was to replace the ineffective Soto with Carlos Hernández. And the team as a whole picked up, with
Hernández and Centeno mostly in the middle and Wallace on the right providing the impetus. Mexico
couldn't keep up the pressing forever, and Costa Rica started to control midfield. Leo González was
having the half of his life on the left side, boosting the attack every time he came up. But for all this,
there was no way through. The back line of Salcido, Márquez, and Sánchez Guerrero stood firm. With
Gómez fading, Wanchope, almost alone up front, tried everything he knew, but always a defender was
there to shut him off. In the 60th minute it was time for Solís, but he was no more effective than Soto
had been. In the entire half there was only one genuine chance for Costa Rica: a rare misplay from
Sánchez Guerrero gave the ball to González, and his pass deflected off Carmona; Rolando Fonseca, the
last of the substitutes, tried a twisting volley in the area, but couldn't get enough power, and the ball
bounced harmlessly to Pérez. In the final 10 minutes the Mexican counterattacks were far more
dangerous, with at least three good chances going begging. The last gasp came in the 90th minute, when
Wanchope went down in the area after contact with sub Alberto Medina. Replays were inconclusive, but
a draw would have done more than flatter Costa Rica--it would have built them a bronze statue in the
It was a landmark victory for the Tri, their first ever in WCQ at Costa Rica. And it was an exhilarating
game, easily the best of the qualifiers so far. CR put up a creditable fight in the second half, but Mexico
had just been too good. LaVolpe wouldn't have needed to smoke even if they'd allowed him. He called
the win "magnificent," and for once, no one was inclined to disagree.
WHERE WE STAND NOW
Mexico takes top notice, but unfortunately we have to start with Panama. A draw at home was a bit of a
blow, but nothing compared to what happened a week later. We've referred in passing to El Pistolero
Garcés' legal problems, and the verdict is in: he fought the law and the law won. He was sentenced to
20 months in prison for attempted murder, and although everyone in the country is backing his appeal,
the odds are he's out for the rest of the Hexagonal. I simply can't imagine Panama qualifying without
Garcés, and if you saw the game against Guatemala, you'll know why. Along with Eddie Johnson and
Kikín Fonseca, he's the best young striker in the region, and Panama just doesn't have anyone to
replace him. Maybe the Dély Valdés brothers can unretire (Jorge was actually on the bench for the
Guatemala game), but they'd have to grow 10 years younger to hope to match Garcés' potential. Oh,
well. It was fun while it lasted.
But this is Panama, and the coach is Cheché Hernández, so let's not give up hope. The record shows
they beat Jamaica and drew with the USA without Garcés in the lineup. Against Guatemala, Felipe
Baloy pretty much swallowed up Carlos Ruiz, and on the whole the defense looks good. Plus, Ricardo
Phillips will be coming back from suspension. If Garcés can't play, my guess is Phillips will move up to
partner Roberto Brown; he's played striker a good part of his career, and right now is starting up top at
the UNCAF tournament. And can't you just imagine the movie? Going on sheer guts, Panama hangs in
the competition until the final day, whereupon a presidential pardon lets Garcés out of prison. They
strike the cuffs off him right there on the field, and he publicly renounces the nickname "El Pistolero,"
changing it to "El Santo." He goes on to score a hat trick against the USA, Panama qualifies, and the
guy he tried to kill becomes an assistant coach on the team. (Or something like that. Give me a few
weeks to work on it.)
And now to Mexico, who not only played brilliantly but picked up 3 points at the toughest venue on their
schedule. In fact, the win was so comprehensive that we should note the potential problems which
remain. First is the ever-present inconsistent finishing--even Fonseca, normally the most deadly of
strikers, missed a couple of opportunities. When everything else you do is right, you can afford to waste
some chances, but it won't always be that way. And on the subject of strikers, Jared Borgetti was pretty
much shackled by Luís Marín; although he dealt some good passes with back to goal, he didn't dispel
the doubts about his punch against top competition.
The second problem is another old favorite, set-piece defense. It's one thing to be ordinary in the air at
the back; it's another to make you cringe on every corner. Even on the goal, which was largely a botch
by Pérez, Wanchope shouldn't have been so free. I'm no expert, but with thousands of hours of
practice, can't you at least manage a few discreet shirt-tugs? I mean, that's why they call them
But the good far, far outweighed the bad, and LaVolpe's program has been, at least for the moment,
thoroughly vindicated. He brought young defenders like Salcido and Sánchez Guerrero along slowly, and
they look like long-term regulars. He wasn't afraid to stick in Fonseca late in the process, and now
there's another potential star at striker. And so on. Next up is the big one, the USA at the Azteca, and
Mexico is as ready as they'll ever be.
The USA should be ready, too. Considering the lack of training time, the T&T game was a good effort,
and now they've got friendlies scheduled against Colombia and Honduras before the March 27 matchup.
The big story continues to be Eddie Johnson, who is rapidly becoming one of those once-in-a-decade
players you hold your breath waiting for. He scores a goal every seven minutes or so, and at T&T, for
the first time, he showed the dribbling and creating skills you need at this level of competition. Keep him
healthy and happy, and pencil him in every game. Let's also give a nod to Pablo Mastroeni, who nailed
down the waiting-for-Claudio position, and to Steve Cherundolo, who might finally have won the right
back spot on a permanent basis.
Certainly there were some worrying signs as well. Central defense, normally the most solid unit, creaked
and cracked against T&T. Cory Gibbs looked particularly off form; maybe you could blame it on
inactivity, but if Carlos Bocanegra plays on the left, Gibbs will have to improve drastically against the
stronger teams. (And Bocanegra fell apart at the end as well.) In midfield, Beasley looked a bit
uncomfortable on the right, and we don't yet know if both he and Eddie Lewis can excel in the same
But let's be honest: the USA will qualify, and these little difficulties probably won't matter until they
play someone like Nigeria, or Italy. Or Mexico on March 27. What'll happen in the Azteca, where the
team has 0 wins, 1 draw, and a googolplex of losses? Easy. Mexico will attack, the USA will
counterattack. A lot of fans will cheer for Mexico. The altitude will be a factor. Maybe someone will
score a goal, or maybe not. And Hugo Sánchez will call LaVolpe an idiot. Don't you wish you had an
Internet column too?
Obviously Costa Rica weren't terribly pleased with their result, and the Pinto critics are starting to come
out of the woodwork again. ("Why are you playing 4 at the back with 2 defensive midfielders?" etc.)
But let's look on the bright side. Remember, the team was missing four starters (Herron, Bryce, Badilla,
Martínez). CR also has a habit of starting slow in these competitions:
2002 semis........road loss to Barbados
2002 Hex..........last-gasp home draw with Honduras
2006 semis........home loss to Honduras
2006 Hex..........home loss to Mexico
So there's no reason to panic. There were some pluses, particularly the way the team responded
aggressively in the second half. Mesén may have been at fault on the first goal, but he recovered to
make several good saves. Marín played well, too, and both Leo González and Carlos Hernández showed
they can go on the attack effectively. And, of course, we've only played one game.
Right now the biggest need is a partner for Wanchope, since Herron may be out for a while. Erick Scott,
sitting on the bench at Alajuelense, has dropped off the radar screen. Rolando Fonseca and William
Sunsing are other options, but neither cries out to get the nod. Perhaps the best long-term bet is Gómez,
who has the talent and experience, and will eventually be match fit--but he got a second yellow and will
miss the next game. Maybe the ongoing UNCAF tournament will suggest another choice.
The loss was more damaging psychologically than practically. Losing at home is never fun, but not many
teams will get more than a point hosting the Tri. Plus, the next two rounds are in CR's favor: home to
Panama and at T&T. The flip side, of course, is that the pressure is on. Four points and they should be
on their way. Any less, and panic is a sensible option.
Guatemala (and before I get to Guatemala, I want to lodge a complaint. Guatemala isn't funny. I've
been watching these guys for a year now, and it's a total wasteland. Nobody gets arrested, nobody beats
up reporters, everyone likes kittens and puppies and fluffy bunnies, and Ramón Maradiaga, although
he's not exactly Antonio Banderas, if you catch my meaning, is the straightest arrow in the business.
What's the point?) got a draw on the road, and for all we know it'll prove decisive, but they looked
nowhere near ready for the competition. The 3-5-2 worked after a fashion--at least there weren't
thousands of red-clad Panamanians breaking free on the wings--but most of the time the midfield was
lost. The few chances, and they were pretty good ones, seemed to arise more by accident than anything
else. My guess is that it'll be back to the 4-4-2 home to T&T, where there's no reason to be
conservative and a win is vital.
At the same time, Maradiaga faces some important lineup choices. In defense, Nelson Morales had a
first-class effort in place of the suspended Gustavo Cabrera--but they'll need Cabrera's air game against
T&T. So do you keep Morales and sit Pablo Melgar, normally the first name on the sheet? Up front,
Dwight Pezzarossi was ineffective; do you go with Juan Carlos Plata? Mario "El Loco" Rodríguez (and
here's another thing: what's the use of having a guy with the nickname "El Loco" if he doesn't attack a
a referee every once in a while?) is suspended for the next game, so it might be Carlos Figueroa, or it
might be Mynor Dávila on the left with Pando Ramírez moving over. In principle, none of it should
matter; Guatemala should beat T&T at home. But if they play like they did against Panama, Dwight
Yorke will be celebrating a victory the next time he crashes his car. (You see? I'm reduced to doing
T&T jokes when covering Guatemala. Work with me, people!)
T&T continues to tread water, and Bertille St. Clair doesn't look like the man to bring them to shore.
After the game he admitted he should have started a different lineup, which earns him points for
honesty, but hardly makes him look like a leader. Every game there's an encouraging sign or two, but it
never comes together. Against the USA you had Cornell Glen scorching off the bench, Anton Pierre a
useful surprise at right back, and Dwight Yorke with still something left in the gas tank. But Stern John
and Anthony Rougier were off form, the defense just gave away the first goal, and with the Yanks as
vulnerable as they'll ever be, T&T came away with no points.
The biggest problem remains the midfield. Fitzpatrick, who debuted on the left, has a great workrate but
inconsistent technique. Angus Eve had a strong second half, but he's no longer a 90-minute man, and
Yorke may not be either. (There's talk about bringing back former star David Nakhid, now an assistant
coach, but that just shows how big the problem is.) Carlos Edwards, who had an ordinary game, will
probably keep his spot, but if Kenwyne Jones goes back to midfield you've got two guys who play the
Tactics are another issue. St. Clair got roasted for his 3-5-2 in the semis, but a 4-4-2 needs much more
aggressive play from the fullbacks. Then there's the striker dilemma. Guatemala, up next, is a team with
aerial weaknesses, and it'll be tempting to put Jones up front again. But it'll be hard to leave Cornell
Glen off, and it also won't be easy to bench John, even if he's slumping. Against Costa Rica, a smart
Scott Sealy type may be necessary.
The best news for T&T came from the other games: a CR loss and Panama/Guatemala draw were
absolutely optimum. And there are still 9 games to go. But after a very long free ride, it's finally
put-up-or-shut-up time. You can beat St. Vincent & the Grenadines and St. Kitts & Nevis all you want;
you can lose to Mexico and the USA if there's no other option. But now it's Guatemala, Costa Rica, and
Panama in that order, and potential will have to give way to performance. We said it last time, and we'll
say it again: Big Up Trinidad & Tobago! But unless Dwight Yorke really is Bunji Garlin, don't expect
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