THE CONCACAF Gold Cup kicks-off with Panama taking on Haiti in Frisco. Mark O’Haire’s (@MarkOHaire) been eyeing up the best bets.
Panama v Haiti | Wednesday 00.00 | BT Sport 2
Dallas is the destination for the Gold Cup curtain-raiser as dark horses Panama take on Group A outsiders Haiti. Dark horses is perhaps a little misguided for a Panama group that have reached the knockout stage in their last five Gold Cup appearances including a runners-up spot and two semi-final exits.
Indeed Los Canaleros arrive as the fourth highest tanked team in the tournament and as well as their silver medal in the 2013 edition, collected bronze at the Copa Centroamericana last year and missed out on 2014 World Cup qualification in heart-breaking fashion.
Head coach Hernan Dario Gomez has spoken of his delight at the side’s efforts in training and believes their unity could prove their most dangerous attribute. Having suffered a number of big disappointments, the feeling is their bond has tightened and they arrive as a determined, hard-working outfit that’s eager to prove itself on the continental stage.
Panama arrive in decent nick too, losing only three of their 12 pre-tournament matches and their credentials were underlined by beating fellow Gold Cup hopefuls Costa Rica 2-1 in April. Los Canaleros boast plenty of experience, a very solid spine with a blend of talented youngsters now coming to the fore. Starting their trail with maximum points is imperative.
So can Haiti cause an upset? Boss Marc Collat certainly believes so. The Frenchman took charge in January 2014 and led the nation to a third-placed finish at the Caribbean Cup last November, enough to earn a sixth appearance at the Gold Cup. Recent results have also been impressive – Les Grenadiers have suffered just one defeat in their last eight outings including holding China in their last fixture.
But this looks like a very difficult opener for the underdogs who feature just one domestic-based player in their 23-man squad. Standard Liege playmaker Jeff Louis is the man tasked with providing the magic for Haiti and although they’ve been buoyed by a fresh, professional approach to tournament football, it’s likely that Les Grenadiers will be starved of possession and goalmouth action against a hardened opposition.
Panama have kept just two clean sheets in their last eight so there is certainly room to manoeuvre for Haiti but the rank outsiders flounder more often than fire. A 1-0 friendly loss to Chile last September was cause for optimism but a disappointing 0-0 draw against 152nd ranked St. Kitts & Nevis in Caribbean Cup qualifying highlights the lack of quality and consistency.
At 3/5 (BetVictor) Panama are just a smidgen to small to back in the Match Odds market but if we look elsewhere, there’s opportunity to get Los Canaleros onside. The best of which is the 4/5 from BetVictor on Panama -0.75 in the Asian Handicap market.
Backing this selection means we’ll receive maximum profit should the favourites win by two goals or more. But should Panama only sneak a victory by a one-goal margin, we’ll still pocket half of that potential full pay-out. The only way in which we’ll lose is if Haiti avoid defeat.
I’m also going to have a wee punt on Panama scoring Over 1.5 Goals at 10/11 with Coral. Sure, they’re a side that’s more industrial than flashy but they should be capable of netting at least twice against a Haitian team that’s leaked two or more goals in five of their previous eight outings including against Barbados, French Guyana plus Antigua & Barbuda.
Panama v Haiti – Panama -0.75 Asian Handicap (4/5 BetVictor)
Panama v Haiti – Panama to score Over 1.5 Goals (10/11 Coral)