WILLEMSTAD, CURAÇAO – Curaçao’s strategy for the 2019 CONCACAF Gold Cup is ferocious, and are keeping up with the momentum after winning the 2019 King’s Cup played in Buriram, Thailand preparing for their historic second Gold Cup participation. And now Curaçao has qualified for the first time to the quarterfinals!
The CONCACAF Gold Cup is the confederation’s premier event for national teams, crowning a champion every two years.
The Gold Cup has seen its share of upsets in recent times, but the 2019 tournament has produced arguably the most shocking group result in the history of the competition.
Curaçao earned a spot in the Gold Cup knockout rounds for the first time. Entering the tournament Curaçao had never scored a goal in the Gold Cup and they were given little chance of making noise in the 2019 tournament having been drawn in Group C alongside a Jamaica and Honduras, but the underdogs have surprised everybody.
Eloy Room the Golden Cup 2019 Dream Team keeper took away with a Gold Cup record 15 saves to help Curaçao to its first-ever Gold Cup win, 1-0 against Honduras at BBVA Stadium in Houston, Texas.
“Everyone’s happy that we won the game and especially for the fans of Curaçao and our island. We won the game and I’m proud of our team and that I helped so that’s nice.” is how Room our Black Panther 2.0 characterized his night with the biggest grin on his face.
A 1-0 loss to El Salvador in the Group C opener set the Caribean side off to a poor start, but it all turned around on matchday two. Leandro Bacuna‘s 40th-minute goal against Honduras was the first ever scored for the nation at the Gold Cup, and a strong defensive showing was enough to earn the side a 1-0 win over the Hondurans.
Then came the group finale against heavily favored Jamaica, better known as The Reggae Boyz looked likely to run away with the match in the early stages as chance after chance went begging before Shamar Nicholson broke through just 14 minutes in. But Jamaica could not add to that tally, as Curaçao continued to fight off one attacking push after another as they waited for a moment of magic to bring them back into the match.
And Jurien Gaari provided it with a phenomenal world goal three minutes into stoppage time, helping Curaçao to a 1-1 draw and kept the hopes high alive until the results of Honduras vs. El Salvador!
Curaçao, a regional minnow with no history to speak of in the Gold Cup, has advanced to the knockout rounds thanks to a 1-1 draw with Jamaica coupled with Honduras beating El Salvador 4-0.
‘Los Catrachos de Curazao’ is what they named them during the games by the Spanish speaking soccer-lovers is ranked 79th in the world by FIFA, representing an island with a population of around 160,000 and has scored just two goals at this Gold Cup. Sunday’s quarterfinal is the highest-profile game in Curaçao’s modest soccer history.
In 2013 they were ranked 173 in the FIFA Ranking and were one of the six worst selections of CONCACAF. Today, Curaçao is in the quarterfinals of Gold Cup and is one of the eight best teams in the confederation.
Nobody has grown more in the world soccer rankings in the last 5 years than Curaçao.
“Part of the nice stories of the Gold Cup are teams like Curaçao, that are very small countries, and they’re able to come to this competition and have a great run,” Berhalter the US Technical Director and Coach said earlier.
Curaçao knocked out all walls of expectations, as in the changes brought by FFK starting with back then bringing Patrick Kluivert as coach first hand, then with the entrance of coach Remko Bicentini we started harvesting success. In 2016, bringing home for the first time the Caribbean Cup Championship later Nation’s League.
Bicentini himself was born in Nijmegen, Netherlands, and many of the players 14 of the 23, in fact are Dutch born in The Netherlands as well and the others Dutch born in the Caribbean, Willemstad. But they’re eligible to play for Curaçao thanks to family ties and their love and passion to play for what they feel to be their home nation. Such as many big professional players also do for their countries, among them is captain Cuco Martina, a defender from Rotterdam who spent the past season on loan from Everton to Stoke City and Feyenoord. And leading scorer Leandro Bacuna, who also got selected as Gold Cup 2019 Dream Team during the group stage, was born in Groningen and has played for Aston Villa, Reading and now Cardiff City. Goalkeeper Eloy Room, also from Nijmegen, is on the books at PSV Eindhoven.
It is so exciting to be living these moments, it is the opportunity of a lifetime to experience such a talented nation make a break-through in soccer history worldwide.
A dream is a wish our hearts make, and watching our nation play at a World Cup may have seemed impossible until we got to see the amazing things these guys have been doing.
They chose for love and patriotism to play for an underdog with all the potential to play for The Netherlands, they still chose for where their hearts belong and writing history for the rising generation to never give up on dreaming big.
For this reason, a special shout-out for Kenley Jansen for hosting our national team for a day in his baseball world and wishing them the warmest brotherhood luck for the games. #YdKPride.