Cuban National Teams Competing in Four Tournaments

At the end of 2014 and the beginning of 2015, Cuban soccer will be competing on four fronts. Cuban U17 and U20 national teams both qualified for full CONCACAF tournaments out of smaller Caribbean tournaments. A U21 squad will compete in the Central American and Caribbean Games in late November in Mexico.

With a chance to enter the 2015 Gold Cup next summer in the United States, Cuba’s full national team kicks off its play in the 2014 Caribbean Cup on November 11.

 

Cuba’s U17 finished 3rd place in the U17 Caribbean Cup, a qualifying tournament for the 2015 CONCACAF U17 Championship. Cuba, Jamaica, Haiti, Trinidad and Tobago and St. Lucia will represent the Caribbean Zone in that regional tournament.

Cuba bested Dominica (4-0) and Suriname (2-0) to advance out of the first group stage of Caribbean qualifying for the CONCACAF tournament. In the second round of group play, Cuba demolished Guadeloupe (5-0) and defeated Martinique (1-0) before losing to Jamaica (0-3). By virtue of finishing second in Group B, the Caribbean Lions qualified for the full regional tournament.

As a consolation of sorts after already advancing to the CONCACAF tournament, Cuba beat Saint Lucia (2-0) on October 26 to win third place in the Caribbean competition.

Cuba’s U17 team will play in one of two groups of 6 teams early next year for the opportunity to qualify to the 2015 FIFA U17 World Cup in Chile.

In addition to the five teams from the Caribbean that have already qualified, North America’s three teams (Canada, Mexico, and the United States) enter the CONCACAF tournament automatically. The final two entrants from Central America are still to be decided in three weeks, but Honduras are in as tournament hosts and Costa Rica has assured its passage through one of two qualifying groups.

 

Cuba’s U20 national team also finds itself in the upcoming CONCACAF tournament. Though the squad started its qualifying campaign rather unceremoniously back in June, Cuba somehow squeaked through.

Cuba was placed in a qualifying group alongside Martinique, Barbados, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. After two draws to open the group in late June, Cuba’s 3-1 win over Martinique earned the Lions passage into the second group stage.

In that second round of group play in September, Cuba defeated Curaçao (1-0) before losing to Suriname (0-1). Cuba entered its final group stage match against Trinidad and Tobago with its future uncertain. The young Soca Warriors had already clinched their own qualification and may have taken their foot off the pedal, allowing Cuba to grab the early lead in the game. Though Trinidad and Tobago did battle back for a draw, Curaçao’s victory over Suriname meant Cuba finished second in Group A.

In an odd happenstance, Cuba’s U20 team won the consolation match against Aruba (2-1) to finish third overall in the 2015 CONCACAF U20 Championship Qualifying Tournament in the Caribbean.

Cuba will be joined by Haiti, Aruba, Trinidad and Tobago, and hosts Jamaica from the Caribbean. The three North American teams (Canada, Mexico, and the United States) enter the tournament automatically while Panama, El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala qualified out of Central America.

Cuba kicks off its 2015 CONCACAF U20 campaign in early January. The Cuban hopefuls face Mexico on January 10, Honduras on the 12th, Haiti on the 15th, Canada on the 19th, and El Salvador on the 22nd.

The tournament features two groups of six teams each and the group winners automatically advance to the 2015 U20 World Cup in New Zealand. The next four best teams are seeded based on group stage results. These four teams play (1 v 4, 2 v 3) and the winners of each match also advance to the World Cup.

There is a tough road ahead for Cuba’s u20 team but the isolated island nation does have a track record recently at the youth level.

Cuba qualified for the 2013 U20 World Cup in Turkey and even though they finished with 0 points and a -9 GD, the squad showed well for a program with such limited resources.

Cuba’s U20 team turned a few heads at the 2013 qualifying tournament in Puebla, Mexico. Finishing the tournament in fourth place earned the Caribbean Lions a berth in that dubious World Cup. Creative forward Maykel Reyes was particularly impressive and he has continued his participation with the national team program.

 

Cuba’s under 21 team will take part in the Central American and Caribbean Games in Veracruz, Mexico, in November. There is heavy overlap between the squads for these two competitions.

The 2014 Central American and Caribbean Games is organized into two groups of four teams. Cuba, which starts play on November 19, is in a group with Costa Rica, Haiti, and Venezuela. This tournament uses U21 teams with up to three overage players allowed in the 20-man squad.

 

Cuba’s full senior national team qualified for the 2014 Caribbean Cup by virtue of lifting the trophy in 2012. Though that surprise title run was in part due to Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago under-performing, Cuba has a strong opportunity to qualify for the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup.

Kicking off on November 11, Cuba faces French Guiana, Curaçao, and Trinidad and Tobago. The top two finishers from each of the two groups advance to next year’s Gold Cup while the better of the the third-placed teams squares off against Honduras for the final berth into the full CONCACAF tournament.

Cuba’s youth teams have both managed to qualify for important Caribbean tournaments and the senior side has performed in recent competitions. However it is difficult to predict whether Cuba is fully prepared for the Caribbean Cup since the team didn’t participate in the qualification cycle.

Cuba Falls 4-0 to a Young, Inexperienced Panama Squad

The Cuban national team traveled to Panama to face that squad in a preparation match for the upcoming Caribbean Cup and Central American Cup.

Colombian head coach of Panama’s national team, Hernán Darío Gómez, could only choose players based in that country’s league because Wednesday night’s match was not on an official FIFA fixture date. A further restriction on his selection was Chorrillo FC’s participation in the current CONCACAF Champions’ League earlier in the week.

Cuba never expected to win this match but was using the contest to try out some new faces for the upcoming busy months. As in every case, Cuba’s coaching staff could only choose players from their domestic league because players who leave Cuba are no longer welcome in the national team setup. The island nation is participating in three tournaments in the fall of 2014, though each at a different age level.

The U-17 team dominated the first group stage of Caribbean qualifying for next year’s CONCACAF Championship. Cuba plays three matches of the second group stage of qualifying between September 27 and October 1.

The Central American and Caribbean Games, a sort of regional Olympics, is planning to bring soccer back to its slate of events. A spat with FIFA forced the organizers to drop the sport from the 2010 addition. Cuba is one of 8 nations participating in the soccer tournament that uses U-21 squads with three overage players allowed (born before January 1, 1993. This tournament runs from November 19 to November 28.

The most important of the three, however, is the 2014 Caribbean Cup. 8 teams will compete in two groups before a knockout stage to determine a champion. The top 4 teams will qualify automatically to the 2015 Gold Cup, the 5th place team will hold a playoff against the 5th place team from the Central American Cup to earn a berth to that Gold Cup, but most exciting is the pass to the 2016 Copa América Centenario available to the winner of the Caribbean tournament.

Cuba lifted the 2012 Caribbean Cup trophy over a disappointing Trinidad and Tobago squad and therefore won an automatic place in the group stage of the 2014 edition. The Cubans will have a tough time defending their title but are already preparing for the fight. The 2014 Caribbean Cup starts on November 9 and the title game is on November 18.

 

Squad for Panama on 8/20
Name (Club), Age, Number of appearances – last national team call-up
Kevin Melgar (Tauro FC), 21, 3 caps – preliminary squad vs Peru
Alex Rodríguez (Sporting SM), 24, 2 caps – August 6 match vs Peru
Óscar McFarlane (Pérez Zeledón; Costa Rica), 33, 34 caps – August 6

Porfirio Ávila (Chepo FC), 22, 1 cap – August 6
Nahill Carrol (Tauro FC), 30, 7 caps – prelim vs Peru
Richard Peralta (Alianza FC), 20, 1 cap – August 6
Joshua Hawkins (Atlético Chiriquí), 32, 1 cap – August 6
Chin Hormechea (Árabe Unido), 18, 0 caps – ???
Fidel Escobar (Sporting SM), 19, 0 caps – prelim vs Peru

Pedro Jeanine (San Francisco FC), 20, 1 cap – August 6
Josiel Núñez (Plaza Amado), 21, 21, 1 cap – August 6
Juan De Gracia (Arabe Unido), 28, 4 caps – August 6
Hécgar/Edgar Murillo (Tauro FC), 20, 0 caps – prelim vs Peru
Justin Simons (San Francisco FC), 16, 0 caps – prelim vs Peru
Richard Rodriguez (San Francisco FC), 18, 0 caps – prelim vs Peru
Francisco Narbón (James Madison University), 19, 1 cap – August 6
Adonis Villanueva (Río Abajo), 21, 1 cap – August 6

Ismael Díaz (Tauro FC), 17, 0 caps – prelim vs Peru
Edgar Yoel Barcénas (Arabe Unido), 20, 1 cap – August 6
Abdiel Arroyo (Arabe Unido), 20, 1 cap – ???
Angel Patrick (Árabe Unido), 22, 0 caps – ???
Armando Paolo (Arabe Unido), 24, 1 cap – prelim vs Peru
Ameth Ramírez (Plaza Amador), 20, 0 caps – August 6

 

Cuban squad vs Panama
Walter Benítez is the normal head coach but the squad was directed by assistant coach Rolando Ayllón

Name (Club), Age, Number of caps

4 Goalkeepers:
Diosvelis Alejandro Guerra (FC Artemisa), 24, 0 caps
Arael Argüelles (Cienfuegos)
Anoide Sardiñas (Ciego de Ávila)
Danilo Baró (Camagüey)

9 Defenders:
Renay Malblanche (Holguín), 23, 14 caps
Michel Márquez (Isla de Juventud), 27, 0 caps
Hanier Dranguet (Guantánamo), 31, 23 caps
Jorge Luis Corrales (Pinar del Río), 23, 20 caps
Yennier Rosabal (Granma) 31, 2 caps
Dairon Blanco (Las Tunas), 22, 0 caps
Yenier Márquez (Villa Clara), 35, 44 caps?
Yasmany López (Ciego de Ávila), 26, ???
Orisbel Leiva (Ciego de Ávila) ?????

9 Midfielders:
Félix Guerra (Granma), 25, ???
Alberto Gómez (Guantánamo), 26, 24 caps
Yannier Martínez (Villa Clara) ?????
Armando Coroneaux (Camagüey), 29, 15 caps
Miguel Ángel Sánchez (Isla de la Juventud), 27, 1 cap
Liván Pérez (Camaguey) 24, 4 caps
Pedro Darío Suárez (La Habana), 22, ???
Jesús Rodríguez (Ciego de Ávila), 25, 1 cap
Tomás Cruz (Ciego de Ávila) ?????

4 Forwards:
José Ciprián Alfonso (Pinar del Río), 30, 4 caps
Yoandri Puga (Isla de Juventud), 26, 3 caps
Ángel Rodríguez (Ciego de Ávila), 23, ???
Ariel Martínez (Sancti Spiritus), 28, 39 caps

 

Lineups for Wednesday’s match that ended Panama 4-0 Cuba.

Oscar McFarlane;
Ángel Patrick, Jorshua Hawkins, Richard Peralta, Porfirio Ávila (Eric Davis, 46′);
Amílcar Henríquez, Francisco Narbón (Juan De Gracia, 60′), Josiel Núñez (Richard Rodríguez, 67′), Hecgar Murillo (Abdiel Arroyo, 60′);
Yoel Bárcenas (Darwin Pinzón, 46′), Armando Polo (Ismael Díaz, 46′)

Diosvelis Guerra;
Jeniel Márquez, Renay Malblanche, Jorge Luis Corrales, Yasmany López;
Alberto Gómez, Tomás Cruz (Livián Pérez, 55′), Yennier Rosabal, Jesús Rodríguez (Félix Guerra, 54′);
Ariel Martínez, Yoandir Puga (José Ciprián Alfonso, 68′)

Cuba did well to stymie Panama’s attack through the first half and into the beginning of the second half. A combination of the Panamanian reinforcements introduced into the game and Cuba’s players tiring undid that hour-long hard work.

Second half substitute Darwin Pinzón opened the scoring in the 67th minute before Juan de Gracia doubled Panama’s lead in the 70th minute, only 10 minutes after stepping on the field. Pinzón fired his second and Panama’s third just 4 minutes later to underline a hectic 7 minute period for Cuba’s defense.

Cuba ventured forward a few times after conceding those 3 goals in rapid succession but couldn’t force McFarlane into making saves. Panama capped the thorough victory with a first minute stoppage time goal from Ismael Díaz. The Cuban defense looked in shambles in the second half of this match but hopefully the team can take something from this game going forward.

Even this under-strength Panama squad is likely more talented than most teams Cuba will face in the upcoming Caribbean Cup. Cuba played Guatemala on Saturday night in another preparation exhibition match.