GROUP B takes centre stage in the CONCACAF Gold Cup in the very early hours of Wednesday and Mark O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) points out the betting angles for El Salvador’s meeting with Canada.
El Salvador v Canada | Wednesday 03.30 | BT Sport 2
It would be wrong to ever suggest a tournament opener is a must-win match but the thought of losing is certainly a fearful prospect. Both El Salvador and CONCACAF Gold Cup co-hosts Canada know their meeting in Carson on Thursday morning could prove pivotal to their hopes of reaching the quarter-finals and a tight encounter looks likely.
Canada’s last Gold Cup campaign ended in disaster – one point and no goals scored and in that 2013 calendar year the Canucks were winless, netting just one goal in 13 outings. It followed a disastrous exit from the 2014 World Cup qualifying and quite rightly called things to a head. Former Real Madrid boss Benito Floro was charged with rebuilding the nation’s football program and the Gold Cup marks a crucial litmus test as to see just how far Les Rouges have truly moved forward.
The promising squad have made decent strides under the veteran Spaniard and the expectation is for a knockout place to be achieved – after all, Canada have fallen at the first hurdle in seven of their 11 Gold Cup appearances. The team arrive on the back of a four-game winning streak, something the Canucks haven’t accomplished since 2009. But those wins came in two friendlies and two World Cup qualifiers against 168-ranked Dominica.
Still victories over Guatemala, Puerto Rico as well as holding Iceland to a draw deserve respect and under Floro’s guidance, Les Rouges are unbeaten against CONCACAF sides. Canada have W5-D1-L0 in their last six against continental rivals and returned impressive W5-D4-L2 figures in their last 11 internationals.
However, there are three key absentees for the co-hosts. Star midfielder Atiba Hutchinson, general Will Johnson and number one Milan Borjan are all missing putting extra emphasis on Jonathan Osorio and ageing skipper Julian de Guzman to grab a stranglehold of the midfield. It’s still a promising squad with highly-rated Cyle Larin leading the line but whether there’s enough resilience at the back remains to be seen.
Canada typically struggle against the free-flowing style of Latin American nations but Floro has employed a more professional and tactically adept approach and their draw in Panama in November was the team’s first result in Central America in a decade. Confidence is high in the camp but the Canucks are still wary of a potentially underrated El Salvador side for their downtown LA meeting.
El Salvador were quarter-finalists two years ago – the fourth occasion they’ve reached the last eight since the turn of the century – and Los Cuscatlecos finished fourth at the Copa Centroamericana. The squad arrives in the US free of injury and led by former Barcelona and Galatasaray assistant coach Alberta Roca.
Under Roca’s tutelage El Salvador have recorded W5-D2-L10 but a recent draw in St. Kitts and Nevis during World Cup qualifying was labelled ‘one of their worst performances in El Salvador’s football history’. They thumped the Caribbean side 4-1 in the second leg back in El Salvador but it’s definitely a concern for Los Cuscatlecos fans.
A decent contingent of Salvadoran support is expected in Carson and the youthful squad (with an average age of just under 25) have shown their potential by going down just 1-0 to Chile in a friendly last month. Expect them to move the ball well, have a decent defensive platform and ideology with a sprinkling of match-winners too.
Nelson Bonilla is a dangerous poacher – he’s scored three goals in his last two international appearances – and will be partnered by Rafael Burgos – the country’s most prolific current goalscorer (13 goals in 45 caps). Both players are more than capable to carry Los Cuscatlecos offensive threat with Arturo Alvarez and Andres Flores providing the thrust from midfield.
Being a tournament opener, I’m a touch wary of supporting a goal-laden game but with neither side excelling defensively and operating with key players in attack, it’s hard not to be seduced by a goals-based bet. William Hill offer 11/8 on Both Teams To Score and that looks more than fair.
But El Salvador’s recent record of W2-D2-L7 and just two clean sheets doesn’t stand up to Canada’s own form of W5-D2-L2 across their latest nine matches. The Canucks have conceded fewer than two goals in all bar one of their previous 12 outings and should they score, I can’t see them losing.
So I’ve chosen to back two big-priced selections that should hopefully cover the draw and a Canadian win but they do rely upon El Salvador scoring. The 1-1 correct score can be backed at 11/2 with BetVictor whilst Canada to win and Both Teams To Score is the same price with Coral. Both appeal and cover the BTTS side of things and means the only way we’ll end up penniless is if El Salvador come out on top, Canada win ‘to nil’ or the match ends goalless.
El Salvador v Canada – 1-1 correct score (11/2 BetVictor)
El Salvador v Canada – Canada to win and Both Teams To Score (11/2 Coral)
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