INTERNATIONAL football fanatic Mark O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) shares his outright thoughts on the upcoming CONCACAF Gold Cup.
CONCACAF Gold Cup | 7th-26th July 2017 | BT Sport
The 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup is the 14th edition of the regional tournament for North and Central America with the carrot for claiming top honours a big deal for countries taking part.
The winner of the competition advances to a play-off with the 2019 winner for a chance to compete in the 2021 Confederations Cup and with 12 teams competing across three groups, only four nations exit the event after the group-stage (the best two runners-up join the top two in each pool in the quarter-finals).
The chances of a surprise semi-finalist or two are therefore very real and two years ago we managed to highlight Jamaica as 66/1 each-way value. The Reggae Boyz' were beaten finalists but I’m hoping to pluck something similar out ahead of this summer’s tournament.
The USA will once again host with defending champions Mexico bidding to add to their record haul of seven Gold Cup titles.
Big Two Dominance
It’s absolutely no surprise to see the big two dominate the betting. Only three nations have won the Gold Cup and 12 of the 13 tournaments have been claimed by either the USA or Mexico.
Canada are the only side to break their dominance in 2000 and it was also the only Gold Cup finale not to feature either the Stars & Stripes or El Tri.
Five (38%) of the 13 previous finals – including three of the past five – have seen USA meet Mexico in the decider and with the draw keeping the two powerhouses apart until the final (should they win their pools), a repeat wouldn’t be a huge surprise when the competition concluder rolls around on 26th July.
But before we become too set on selecting either USA or Mexico to go the distance, neither nation have named a full-strength squad. However, the ruling that sides can call-up six players to their roster after the group-stage could see either team add a few big-hitters to their roster…
All food for thought, eh? Outside of the big two, Costa Rica (x5), Honduras (X5) Panama (x5) and Canada (x4) have all been semi-regular qualifiers for the final-four.
Mexico (139/100 Marathon) are the bookmakers favourites from hosts USA (7/4 Betway) with the big two understandably dominating the market. According to the odds, there’s a 78.2% chance of either CONCACAF nation lifting the trophy.
Considering 12 (92%) of the 13 previous Gold Cup titles have been shared between the pair, there’s certainly value in the outright winners market if you’re looking to support Mexico or the States.
However, I believe there’s more than enough mileage in the squad selection and mentality of the duo to find alternative angles of attack for July.
The USA should prove too strong for Martinique and Nicaragua in Group B but a stiff test is expected from Panama. The sides meet in the opening encounter in Nashville on Saturday night in a match that could and should set the tone for the two teams’ efforts.
Canal Men represent value
Panama (20/1 Marathon) may boast an inferior W4-D2-L12 record against the US but in Gold Cup action they’ve often troubled the Stars & Stripes. Two years ago Los Canaleros beat the States on penalties in the third-place match, having already held Jurgen Klinsmann’s men in the first round of group games.
Back in 2011, Panama beat the USA in the group-stage, taking top honours in the pool. And in 2005 Los Canaleros took the States to a penalty shootout in the competition’s final in New York. As recently as March, the Central Americans held a full-strength American outfit in a crucial World Cup qualifier.
I certainly fancy Panama to feature heavily in the knockout stages of the competition and 20/1 quotes appear kind considering the leading nations won’t be at their strongest.
Hernan Dario Gomez’s group have suffered a sole reverse in six matches from CONCACAF’s Hexagonal World Cup qualifying phase, including holding USA home and away, as well as Mexico. Back Los Canaleros each-way and we’ll make money should they reach the final.
Despite fielding a second-string, Mexico should cruise into the quarter-finals from a pool featuring El Salvador, Curacao and Jamaica. El Tri’s domestic league is arguably the best in the region so a B-team made up of local players should still be respected by punters.
However, their prohibitively short outright price suggests Mexico have a 42% chance of taking home the title. And that just seems a little extreme considering the conditions.
Ticos' time to shine
So if we disregard the top-two and add Panama to our shortlist I reckon there’s room to squeeze a second each-way selection out with Costa Rica (7/1 Bwin) appearing primed and ready for a serious tilt at outright glory.
Bar goalkeeper Keylor Navas, Los Ticos have selected all their key players suggesting the 2002 runners-up could well be our best bet to break the joint US-Mexico stranglehold on the trophy.
Oscar Ramirez has picked up the pieces from Paulo Wanchope’s hideous reign in charge and Costa Rica have performed admirably in CONCACAF’s infamous Hexagonal World Cup qualifying phase. Los Ticos sit second, four points clear of the play-off position with four games to play.
Whilst USA are focussing their efforts on securing the automatic qualification berth, Costa Rica can afford to branch out knowing they boast a comfortable cushion in the race to reach Russia, which resumes in August.
Sure, Los Ticos have failed to progress past the quarter-final stage in five of the last six tournaments and finishing fourth in this year’s Copa Centroamericana wasn’t considered a huge success. But a 4-0 thrashing of USA in November and a 1-1 draw in the States during World Cup qualification has to be taken seriously.
Ramirez will line his side up in their notoriously difficult-to-breakdown 5-4-1 system but there’s enough attacking inspiration from Bryan Ruiz, Joel Campbell and Alvaro Saborio to see this side squeeze out results from tight encounters and take Gold Cup glory at the end of the month.
888 have chalked up a number of specials for the Gold Cup with the 30/1 available on four or more 0-0s particularly eye-catching and worth an interest.
There were only four goalless draws in five tournaments between 2005 and 2013 when the Gold Cup moved to its current format but the 2015 edition saw four scoreless matches; with neither Mexico nor USA at full tilt – plus a number of outsiders – I’ll be having a wee throwaway tenner on the 30/1 shot.
Elsewhere, the 3/5 (888) on 51 Or More Goals Being Scored looks a banker. There’s no option to go higher on the goals total but across the past six tournaments, the line would have comfortably crossed on each occasion.
The average is 68 goals per-tournament since 2005 and that includes five editions that haven’t included a third-placed tournament. The 2015 competition was the lowest scoring (61) but still sailed past the available line.
Although top-class strikers are few and far between at the Gold Cup, the 6/5 (888) on a hat-trick being scored in the tournament shouldn’t be ignored. It’s a selection that’s landed in five of the six previous editions.
Finally, cards-based punters may be intrigued by the quote of 66 Or More Yellow Cards at 5/1 (888). It’s a spread that’s been beaten in four of the past six renewals despite five editions not featuring a third-placed play-off.
The average cautions dished out over those six tournaments is 77.83 whilst the 66 line works out at just under 3.00 yellow cards per-game. Easy meat.
Red cards average out at 7.33 per-tournament since 2005 with a high of 13 and three instances where four or fewer were awarded. That makes the Number Of Red Cards market well left alone.
CONCACAF Gold Cup –Costa Rica to win outright (7/1 each-way Bwin)
CONCACAF Gold Cup – Panama to win outright (20/1 each-way Marathon)
CONCACAF Gold Cup – Four or more 0-0 draws (30/1 888)
CONCACAF Gold Cup – 51 or more goals scored (3/5 888)
CONCACAF Gold Cup – A hat-trick is scored (6/5 888)
CONCACAF Gold Cup – 66 or more yellow cards awarded (5/1 888)
For preview of all three Gold Cup groups, including team-by-team analysis, follow the below links: