THE CONCACAF Gold Cup quarter-finals continue with surprise package Trinidad & Tobago taking on 2013 finalists Panama for a place in the final four. Mark O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) shares his betting thoughts.
Trinidad & Tobago v Panama | Sunday 21.30 | BT Sport 1
Hands up, I got Trinidad & Tobago wrong. Not just wrong, totally and utterly wrong, misguided and mistaken. I’m more than happy to admit my error because… I still can’t quite believe what they’ve achieved at the 2015 Gold Cup – and that’s before they even take to the field against Panama on Sunday night.
The T&T FA have been bankrupt ever since that rascal Jack Warner left the building in 2011 and uncertainty over salaries, match fees, friendly arrangements and training camps knocked the cricket-loving nation for six. Even head coach Stephen Hart spoke out not just once or twice but thrice to slam the lack of preparation and organisation surrounding the national team.
The Soca Warriors entered Group C knowing progression was well within reach. Bar pre-tournament favourites Mexico, they would have felt capable of usurping at least one of Guatemala or Cuba to pinch a place in the quarter-finals but having fallen at the first hurdle in six of their previous eight Gold Cup excursions and losing to the likes of Jordan and Curacao in the lead-up to July, surely I’m forgiven for writing them off?
Selection problems left Hart unable to pick five of his first-team for the entirety of the tournament but despite all the negativity, Trinidad somehow managed to land top spot in Group C and finishing above continental powerhouses Mexico. It really is/was a remarkable achievement and no wonder Hart has been quick to readjust the team’s goals.
The Trinidadians scored nine times during the group-stage including four in a thrilling 4-4 draw with the Mexicans last time out in a match they really should have won. How’s that for preparation for this New Jersey quarter-final clash? Pretty bloody impressive, if you ask me.
Kenwyne Jones and Andre Boucaud have led the team superbly with their experience and professionalism having a positive effect on the likes of rising stars Joevin Jones and Sheldon Bateau. And now Hart believes his team are more than capable of booking their place in the semis.
Lying in wait is Panama. Surprise finalists in 2013 having dumped out Mexico in the final four, Los Canaleros suffered World Cup qualifying heartache soon after. But with two silvers, one semi-final and two quarter-final finishes in their last five Gold Cups, Panama have a wealth of experience when it comes to continental knockout football.
All three of Hernan Dario Gomez’s men group games finished 1-1 as Los Canaleros struggled to get out of second gear. They blew three points in the opener against Haiti despite dominating proceedings and were made to pay late on against Honduras too after holding an advantage before settling for a point against USA.
The Central Americans have been tidy in possession, reasonably comfortable in defensive positions but have a touch of the Arsenals about them in the final third – you know, one pass too many or a slack finish to blow the beautiful build-up play that’s seduced us. Gomez has said they’ll maintain the same style here but they’ll need to be a little more composed in front of goal.
Looking at the betting, I’m not too surprised to see Panama (6/4 Betfair) priced up as favourites for this. They did escape out of the toughest group and have the pedigree to really challenge the top nations for honours at the Gold Cup. But they’ve just not been firing on all cylinders and it’s difficult to back them at those quotes with any sort of confidence.
Trinidad are 23/10 (BetVictor) shots and will certainly appeal to many, based upon their three showings across the past 10 days. However, bar that topsy-turvy encounter with Mexico when El Tri were already pretty much guaranteed their place in the last eight, the Soca Warriors haven’t come up against opponents as strong or streetwise as Panama.
T&T have been well backed but +0.25 in the Asian Handicap can still be grabbed at a reasonable 5/6 (BetVictor) if you’re confident they can continue their excellent campaign. With this selection, you’ll have a winner should they come out on top in 90 minutes but if the match ends in a draw you’ll still pocket half of that full pay-out – only losing your cash should Panama win.
With their attack clearly causing defences problems, that’s an angle I like. But I can’t help being a little wide-eyed at the hunky 5/4 from William Hill on Both Teams To Score. It’s banked in five of the six fixtures these two have been involved in at the Gold Cup thus far and should they show the same intent and attacking approach, we could have the most enjoyable quarter-final showdown on our hands.
Trinidad & Tobago v Panama – Trinidad & Tobago +0.25 Asian Handicap (5/6 BetVictor)
Trinidad & Tobago v Panama – Both Teams To Score (5/4 William Hill)
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