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CONCACAF GOLD CUP SPOTLIGHT

CONFUSED? YOU’RE NOT THE ONLY ONE

One reason the World Cup succeeded on these shores is because the average American sports fan can appreciate a championship fight. In 1994, the World Cup was an easy sell--whichever team wins this tournament is the best soccer team in the world. Americans who didn’t know a corner kick from a cornerback could understand that much, and the World Cup became one sellout after another.

Not so the Gold Cup.

According to the media guide, “the Gold Cup is CONCACAF’s showpiece event. Contested every two years, it determines the Confederation’s finest national team.”

OK.

Except the first Gold Cup was held in 1991, the second in 1993 and the third . . . in 1996.

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Next problem: If the Gold Cup is played to determine the best national team of the North and Central American and Caribbean region, what’s Brazil doing here?

Well, it was invited as “a special guest.” Translation: Brazil might bring some bodies to the Coliseum. Americans surely remember the goal-scoring splendor of Romario and Bebeto.

Except, Romario and Bebeto aren’t on this team.

This is Brazil’s Under-23 team, here to gain some valuable experience before the Summer Olympics.

Except, Brazil’s best Under-23 players--Juninho, Ronaldo, Roberto Carlos--are not here. They’re in Europe, gaining valuable paychecks from their club teams.

So, the 1996 CONCACAF Gold Cup is a tournament held every two or three years to determine the best team from North and Central America and the Caribbean unless the Brazilian frosh-soph team wins it.

PLAY IT AGAIN, SAM

The Brazilian and Honduran teams stood respectfully in line while the music wafted through the Coliseum before Sunday afternoon’s game.

Nice anthem, thought the Honduran players, must be the Brazilian one.

Nice anthem thought the Brazilian players, must be the Honduran one.

No. But as any passing Panamanian might have told you, it’s a tune heard quite often around the Canal Zone.

Seems there was this tape mix-up . . .

TRUTH IN ADVERTISING?

Two reasons for the Gold Cup’s struggles at the turnstiles:

1. The tournament planners forgot to advertise.

2. Once they remembered, they forgot some details.

Such as where the United States was playing its first game.

Readers may have come across this ad in their Friday editions:

at the L.A. Coliseum

today 5:00 p.m.

BRAZIL VS. CANADA

tomorrow 4:00 p.m.

USA VS. TRINIDAD & TOBAGO

Come and see the world champion team in its first official appearance in the USA after the World Cup, as well as the stars of the USA team.

That’s fine if you came to the Coliseum on Friday; Brazil and Canada were there. But if you came to the Coliseum on Saturday at 4 p.m., you might have seen a few early arrivals for the Clipper-Rocket game at the Sports Arena.

Meanwhile, USA and Trinidad & Tobago did play Saturday at 4 p.m.

At Anaheim Stadium.

MISSING THE BUS

Trinidad and Tobago’s players were left waiting outside Anaheim Stadium for more than an hour Saturday night for a bus that never came.

The one reserved to take the team back to its hotel had been commandeered earlier by officials and no replacement was sent.

It was left to fans to give their team a lift.

HE LIKES TO KEEP FIRST THINGS FIRST

Mehrdad Masoudi, the Canadian press officer helping to keep things running despite the worst efforts of the Gold Cup organizers, is a collector of unusual statistics.

His proudest feat is identifying the first fan to attend the CONCACAF women’s championship in Montreal. He missed duplicating that feat at Anaheim Stadium last Wednesday, but has collected a few other “firsts” from the tournament. For example:

--First kick: Tomasz Radzinski (Canada).

--First corner kick: Tom Kouzmanis (Canada).

--First offside: Radzinski (Canada).

--First foul: Radzinski (Canada).

--First hand ball: Alex Pineda (Honduras).

--First yellow card: Craig Forrest (Canada).

--First red card: Paul Dolan (Canada).

--First shutout: Jorge Campos (Mexico).

--First substitute: Jose Luis Pineda in for Arnold Cruz (Honduras).

--First shot to hit post or crossbar: Carlo Corazzin (Canada).

--First penalty kick: Raul Diaz Arce (El Salvador).

--First goal from free kick: Joe-Max Moore (United States).

WHEN BORA SPEAKS, EVERYONE LISTENS

One highlight of the tournament, at least for the U.S. media, was the “audience” granted to a handful of writers by Bora Milutinovic between midnight and 2 a.m. Friday in the bar of the Mexican team’s hotel in San Diego.

Free from the pressure imposed upon him by media south of the border, Bora was able to relax and joke, recalling his stint as U.S. World Cup coach, saying he misses the United States, diagraming plays on napkins, assessing the Gold Cup teams and looking ahead to France ’98.

It was all off the record, and by 2 a.m. that was just as well.

THEY’RE DREAMING

The battle to stage World Cup 2002 continues to be waged on the world’s soccer fields. Signs at all three Gold Cup venues tout the relative merits of Japan and South Korea. The decision comes in June, making the Koreans’ slogan of “The Dream Comes True” a little premature.

COLOR COMMENTARY

It was a rather understated Jorge Campos who showed up for Mexico’s first game, against St. Vincent and the Grenadines on Thursday at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium.

Discarding his trademark fluorescent outfits, the goalkeeper wore white shorts and socks, but saved his reputation with an appallingly loud jersey of white, orange, yellow, lime green, blue and purple.

The next day at the Coliseum, who should be wearing that same jersey but Fitz-Gerald Bramble, the St. Vincent goalkeeper. “I swapped with him,” he explained.

WHAT’S ALL THIS GREEN STUFF, EH?

Canada’s coach, Bob Lenarduzzi, on midfielder Kevin Holness’ two goals in a 3-1 tournament-opening victory over Honduras:

“What Kevin did tonight is a great example of desire. This was his first soccer match in four months. That’s because Kevin lives in Manitoba. For those of you not versed in geography, Manitoba is a very, very cold place. Kevin hasn’t seen grass for four months.”

Compiled by Grahame L. Jones and Mike Penner

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

TOURNAMENT RESULTS AND SCHEDULE

ROUND ROBIN

Group Winners and Top Second-Place Team Advance

JAN. 10

At Anaheim Stadium

* Canada 3, Honduras 1

At Anaheim Stadium

* El Salvador 3, Trinidad and Tobago 2

JAN. 11

At San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium

* Mexico 5,

St. Vincent & the Grenadines 0

JAN. 12

At Coliseum

* Brazil 4, Canada 1

JAN. 13

At Anaheim Stadium

* United States 3, Trinidad and Tobago 2

JAN. 14

At San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium

* Mexico 1, Guatemala 0

At Coliseum

* Brazil 5, Honduras 0

TUESDAY

At Anaheim Stadium

* St. Vincent & the Grenadines vs.

Guatemala, 6 p.m.

At Anaheim Stadium

* El Salvador vs. U.S., 8 p.m.

SEMIFINALS

THURSDAY At Coliseum

* Group B winner vs. Group C winner, 6 p.m.

FRIDAY At San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium

* Group A winner vs. best second place, 8 p.m.

THIRD PLACE

SUNDAY, JAN. 21

At Coliseum

* Semifinal losers, 2 p.m.

CHAMPIONSHIP

SUNDAY, JAN. 21

At Coliseum

* Semifinal winners, 4 p.m.

FACTS AND FIGURES

GOALKEEPERS

*--*

Keeper (Country) G GA GAA Jorge Campos (Mexico) 2 0 0.00 Dida (Brazil) 1 1 1.00 Edgar Estrada (Guatemala) 1 1 1.00 Kasey Keller (United States) 1 2 2.00 Raul Garcia (El Salvador) 1 2 2.00 Craig Forrest (Canada) 2 5 2.50 Ross Russell (Trinidad & Tobago) 2 6 3.00 Wilmer Cruz (Honduras) 1 3 3.00 Fitz-Gerald Bramble (St. Vin.) 1 5 5.00

*--*


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