TWO teams fancied to go well in Group B at the CONCACAF Gold Cup meet at 1am on Thursday morning. Mark O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) shares his betting thoughts for Costa Rica’s clash with Jamaica.
Costa Rica v Jamaica | Thursday 01.00 | BT Sport 2
Now here’s a contest I’m really looking forward to. Costa Rica have been rated as clear Group B favourites and begin their quest for a first ever CONCACAF Gold Cup crown by taking on a Jamaican side that looks best equipped to follow them into the knockout rounds.
But are Costa Rica being a little overhyped? I think so. Their run to the 2014 World Cup quarter-finals shocked the globe, especially as they topped the ‘Group of Death’ containing England, Italy and Uruguay, but the past 12 months have been far from smooth for the Ticos.
First they allowed highly-rated coach Jorge Luis Pinto to leave for Honduras and although the return of W4-D3-L3 since their World Cup heroics is reasonable, they’ve not quite been the real deal that some pundits have been hoping for.
Costa Rica enter the competition as the highest-ranked FIFA member but only 11 of their 23-man World Cup squad are included in their Gold Cup roster and skipper and goalkeeping genius Keylor Navas is out injured.
Morale remains sky high and the Ticos did give tournament favourites Mexico a serious examination in a pre-tournament friendly – racing into a two-goal lead before six second-half substitutions allowed El Tri to level things up. But I can’t help but feel the loss of Pinto could have a lasting effect.
Paulo Wanchope won five of his opening six matches as interim coach. However, since being handed the role on a permanent basis he has yet to win. Three defeats and two draws represent a far from perfect build up for the competition, although that run included fixtures against high-profile trio Colombia, Spain and that showdown with Mexico. It’s just a roundabout way of saying, they’re deservingly rated third in the outright betting but they’re weaker than 12 months ago.
Opponents Jamaica arrive buoyed by their performances in last month’s Copa America and hoping to continue their upward trajectory under German coach Winfried Schafer. The Reggae Boyz may have lost all three of their Copa fixtures – all three defeats came by 1-0 margins (v Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay) – but there were flashes of encouragement throughout.
There’s an industrious blend of Major League Soccer and English second tier personnel but their key strengths come from the pace and power of the side. There’s a strong spine, a willingness to use the wings and excellent cohesiveness to their defence. The only major question mark surrounds the goalscoring ability of their attack.
The experience of playing in the Copa should stand them in good stead. However, different mentality, drive and attitude will be needed for Gold Cup action and assistant coach Miguel Coley insists that there will be more emphasis on attacking play – they can afford to take more risks against supposedly weaker opposition – so the likes of Darren Mattocks and Giles Barnes must be clinical.
Jamaica have conceded only four goals in their last eight games so their progression in the competition surely counts on the front line. Costa Rica have kept just two clean sheets in 10 outings now and I’d like to think the battle-hardened Reggae Boyz can come out of their curtain-raiser unscathed.
A pay dispute with Jamaican football chiefs has threatened to overshadow Schafer’s squad; the team refused to train on Monday as they demanded more cash with a boycott of this game even suggested. But should the camp come together and perform like we know they’re capable of they’ll grind out a result.
I’m going to take TitanBet’s generous even-money offer on Jamaica +0.50 in the Asian Handicap. Should the underdogs avoid defeat, we’ll have ourselves a winner. Costa Rica are good but I don’t feel odds-on quotes fairly reflect where the Ticos are at right now.
Costa Rica v Jamaica – Jamaica +0.50 Asian Handicap (1/1 TitanBet)
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