Thursday’s CONCACAF Nations League: Suriname vs Mexico, Guadeloupe vs Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados vs Cuba, French Guiana vs Dominican Republic, Saint Martin vs Saint Kitts and Nevis and British Virgin Islands vs Puerto Rico.
Suriname vs Mexico
The Diego Cocca era begins.
Back in November, Mexico crashed out in the World Cup group stages for the first time since 1978, and Tata Martino was duly sacked.
So, Cocca has been appointed as his successor, a big decision given that Mexico are beginning a World Cup cycle which’ll culminate with a tournament on home soil.
In the context of this group, el Tri have a little bit of work to do if they’re going to feature at this summer’s CONCACAF Nations League Finals in Las Vegas.
Last June, they demolished Suriname 3-0 in Torreón, before only managing a 1-1 draw with Jamaica in Kingston.
The top two go head-to-head at Estadio Azteca on Sunday, with Mexico looking to jump into first place by claiming a win in Paramaribo.
Suriname meanwhile are competing in the top-tier for the first time, but are set to be immediately relegated back to League B.
They held Jamaica to a 1-1 draw on matchday one, but that’s the only point Aron Winter’s team have on the board.
So Suriname, who qualified for a first Gold Cup in 36 years in 2021, will have to go through the prelims if they’re to repeat that feat.
Will Mexico be far too strong at Dr. Ir. Franklin Essed Stadion?
Guadeloupe vs Antigua and Barbuda
Can Antigua & Barbuda cause another shock against Guadeloupe?
Back in June, Myles Weston was the only scorer as the Benna Boys won the reverse fixture 1-0.
This was a big surprise, not least because Antigua & Barbuda have lost all three other matches in this group, most-recently beaten 3-1 in Cuba.
If Mikele Leigertwood’s side can get a result here, they could preserve their League B status, ahead of hosting bottom of the table Barbados at the weekend.
Guadeloupe meanwhile are targeting promotion to the top-tier, having won their other three matches, aside from that aforementioned shock loss.
This leaves the Gwada Boys joint-top, below Cuba on goal difference, with those two meeting in a decisive clash on Sunday.
Before then, Jocelyn Angloma’s side will be hoping for a comfortable home win at Stade René Serge Nabajoth.
Barbados vs Cuba
Ahead of Sunday’s top-of-the-table clash, will Cuba ensure they stay top of Group A?
Los Leones del Caribe have won their last three Nations League fixtures, including a 3-0 win in the reverse fixture.
Willian Pozo-Venta, Arichel Hernández and Luis Paradela on target that day at Estadio Antonio Maceo.
So, Cuba are top of the group, above Guadeloupe on goal difference, with those two meeting in Santiago de Cuba in the final game.
Pablo Elier Sánchez’s side were relegated from Nations League A in the inaugural edition, but a win here would leave them in a strong position to make an immediate return.
An away victory seems likely given that Barbados are bottom of the section, with zero points to their name.
The Bajan Tridents won promotion from League C in 2019, but are set to make an immediate return to the bottom-tier.
Cuba should be far too strong at Wildey Turf.
French Guiana vs Dominican Republic
Will French Guinea pull clear at the top of Group D, targeting promotion to the Nations League’s top-tier?
Following June’s quartet of matches, les Yana Dòkòs have an impressive ten points on the board.
Thierry De Neef’s side won three of four fixtures, including a comeback 3-2 victory in the reverse fixture in Santo Domingo.
So, two more draws, or better, from this month’s two games will see them promoted, facing nearest-challengers Guatemala on the road on Monday.
Dominican Republic meanwhile have won just once so far, beating bottom of the group Belize back on matchday one.
Those two meet again at Estadio Panamericano on the final matchday, which could be crucial in the battle to avoid relegation.
Here, French Guinea are likely to be far too strong at Stade Municipal Dr. Edmard Lama.
Saint Martin vs Saint Kitts and Nevis
Can Saint Kitts & Nevis move top of Group B as they target promotion back into the second-tier?
Back in June, the Sugar Boyz beat Aruba 3-2, before needing a stoppage time equaliser from Kalonji Clarke to salvage a draw when Saint Martin visited Basseterre.
So, if Austin Huggins’ side avoid defeat in their last two matches, hosting Aruba on Sunday, they’ll top the group, thereby gaining promotion and qualifying for the Gold Cup prelims.
Saint Martin can only top the section if they win here by 5+ goals and then the weekend fixture is a draw.
This seems very unlikely, although the Saint Swallows did very nearly win the reverse fixture, so will believe an upset is possible.
Nevertheless, a St. Kitts win should be on the cards at Raymond E. Guishard Technical Centre.
British Virgin Islands vs Puerto Rico
Will Puerto Rica’s 100% record in this group continue?
Last June, the Blue Hurricane won both CONCACAF Nations League fixtures, beating Cayman Islands 3-0 and then British Virgin Islands 6-0.
Ricardo Rivera scoring four times in the latter at Mayagüez Athletics Stadium.
So, despite having two of four games to go, Puerto Rico have already wrapped up top spot, securing promotion to League B, and a place in the Gold Cup preliminary round.
British Virgin Islands meanwhile held Cayman Islands to a pair of 1-1 draws, before that aforementioned 6-0 drubbing in Mayagüez.
The Nature Boys are still searching for their first-ever win in this competition and that’s almost certainly not going to come in this clash at A. O. Shirley Recreation Ground.
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