Gold Cup: WAGs + Primer

WAGs here stands for "wild-ass guesses."

For whatever reason - maybe it's just a barren spell in international play that remotely interests me - I'm pants-pissing excited about the 2007 Gold Cup...and so, SO pissed that I don't get Galavision (for non-(stupid)-Galavision listings, check the full TV schedule; thank god for Univision).

It seems I'm not alone in thinking about primers; du Nord was good enough to chuck out a first-round fixture list and link to TV listings, but I'm getting the biggest assist on sorthing things out from the Gold Cup preview good ol' reliable Ives typed up for ESPN - for, without that, how could I pass on my WAGs about what will happen? Anyway, he gives the usual spiel about players to watch for, as well as clocking the impact of "bonus" stuff one can expect from the CONCACAF region - e.g. the financial shit-storm hitting Trinidad and Tobago (My Soccer Blog did a good post on this).

Anyway, I'm going to parlay those scraps into a grand, complete series of predictive commentary for the entire tournament. Before going further, I feel compelled to warn anyone who may read this that I possess very little current knowledge of the teams in play; so take a tablespoon of salt at least while reading.

Tournament Format
Dang. I have to write this down to keep things straight. It's pretty simple in general, in that the top two teams from each of the three groups qualify for the quarterfinals. But, because that yields only six teams, the organizers went for the familiar "best third-place team" formulation to select the other two. For the record, and the Fox Sports layout does pretty well with this, the best third-place team from either Group A or C will play the first-place team from Group A in the quarters, while the best third-place team from either Group A or B will play the first-place team from Group C.

Now...let's look at those groups.

The Groups
Group A: Canada, Costa Rica, Haiti, Guadelope
Unless there's something I don't know about them, Guadelope sure seems like the odd man out. I wouldn't take Haiti lightly - and not just 'cause Ives tells me not to - but because they seem to have caused their share of headaches in recent Gold Cups. I'd think Canada ought to get the jitters; Costa Rica not so much.

Group B: El Salvador, Guatemala, Trinidad and Tobago, U.S.A.
Shit. Who did we bribe? We ought to keep tabs for the next World Cup draw. I'll be pretty cross if we don't top this group; I'll be pissed off to a vow of silence if we finish third; failing to qualify....well, best not write that down as it could prove self-incriminating in future. Circumstances look to have rendered T and T into tournament fodder, while I haven't heard anything - good or bad - about El Salvador in so long that I take that as a bad thing. So, it's down to Guatemala and us, eh? That first game suddenly looks important...

Group C: Cuba, Honduras, Mexico, Panama
This being CONCACAF, we don't do Groups of Death, but this one looks pretty stiff. Mexico could certainly slip against Honduras and we all know what Panama did last time around. Again, Mexico just has to get out of this group; the only question is where.

Quarterfinal WAGs
Based on what I'm seeing above, it's tempting to say the third-place teams will come from the stronger groups - e.g. Groups A and C. It's also possible those teams will pick each other apart, while a slapped-together T and T could give a team like El Salvador a leg-up - a lucky (or not) draw against Guatemala (better not be against the U.S.) and they've got four points, right?

Well, assuming Guadelope is bad - and for no better reason than I've never heard of them - I'll pick one third-place team from Group A and - what the hell? - the other from Group B. Now, let's set up totally hypothetical quarterfinal pairings based on those assumptions:

Costa Rica v. Guatemala (hell, could be us)
U.S.A. v. Canada (better from our end than Haiti as I see it)
Mexico v. El Salvador
Haiti v. Panama (Honduras? Hell, I don't know)

Semifinal WAGs
Wow...I'm not even sure about the quarterfinal pairings; goes to show this year's tourney shouldn't be without intrigue. BUT, based on that, here's what I'd pick:

Guatemala v. U.S.A. (seriously? Is this possible?)
Mexico v. Haiti (seems the most fun)

The Final
Maybe everyone is right. Maybe this is inevitable. Kind of a downer, really. Still, it seems appropriate to have the big dogs square off.

Anyway, I'm pulling for as many upsets as possible...provided, of course, they don't hit us. Happy viewing.

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