A crowd of more than 10,000 fans – most of them rooting for Haiti and Guatemala -- is expected at DRV PNK Stadium in Fort Lauderdale Tuesday for the Gold Cup preliminary-round tripleheader.
Trinidad and Tobago play against French Guiana at 4:30. Haiti faces Bermuda at 7 p.m. And Guatemala plays Guadeloupe in the 9:30 p.m. match.
The winners of the three games earn the final three spots in the 16-team bracket for the upcoming Gold Cup, which begins July 10 and will be held at 11 stadiums across eight U.S. cities. The championship game is Aug. 1 at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas.
“Every time we step on the field here, not just in Miami but all over the United States, we feel like locals, like we are the home team because of the massive support of the Guatemaltecan immigrants,” said Guatemala coach Amarini Villatoro. “No doubt they are our 12th man and that will give us an edge.”
An estimated 8,000 Guatemalan fans showed up for Saturday’s 4-0 victory over Guyana and a similar number is likely to show up on Tuesday for the elimination game against Guadeloupe.
Guatemala is especially motivated after a heartbreaking ending to their recent World Cup qualifying run. Despite not losing any of their four games and outscoring their opponents 14-0, they did not advance. Instead, Curacao went through because they had a plus-15 goal differential and Guatemala was plus-14.
It was the second time in World Cup history that a team with no losses and no goals conceded did not advance. Belgium suffered the same fate before the 1974 World Cup with a plus-12 goal differential.
Guatemala has one of the stingiest defenses in the region. In its past nine CONCACAF matches, “Los Chapines” of Guatemala have scored 43 goals and conceded none.
“We are more determined than ever,” said Guatemalan midfielder Marco Dominguez. “This is a final for us.”
The winner will punch a ticket to Gold Cup Group C, where they will face Costa Rica, Jamaica and Suriname.
Guadeloupe’s attack is led by Raphael Mirval, who scored in a 2-0 win over the Bahamas on Saturday.
Haiti, meanwhile, is coming off a 6-1 victory over Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. Duckens Nazon scored two goals for Haiti and is among the players to watch. Like Guatemala, Haiti has a strong fan following in South Florida and they are expected to be making plenty of noise Tuesday night.
Bermuda beat Barbados 8-1 win on Saturday and Nahki Wells scored a hat trick. Wells, who plays for Bristol City in England, made Gold Cup history by scoring in the 17th second, the fastest goal in tournament history.
Haiti and Bermuda are both known for their free-flowing attack, so it should be an entertaining game.
“It is a one-off game, so we have to leave it all on the pitch,” said Bermuda coach Kyle Lightbourne, whose career included stints in England with Coventry City, Fulham and Stoke City. “Haiti is a very strong team. They can wear you down with the ball. They can wear you down without the ball. We have our experienced players back and hopefully we can take our chances and ride our luck a little bit.”
The winner advances to the Gold Cup group stage and gets a spot in Group B along with United States, Canada and Martinique.
In the early game Trinidad and Tobago faces French Guiana, which did not play on Saturday because its scheduled opponent, Cuba, was unable to travel after getting stranded in Nicaragua with visa complications.
For tickets to Tuesday’s matches, go to https://www.concacaf.com/gold-cup/tickets/