By Andrew Dixon, III
Updated: February 4, 2005
|Dwight Yorke (BBC)
MIAMI, FLA.—February 9 was the date set aside by FIFA as an international calendar day and the CONCACAF region comprising the Caribbean, North & Central America will begin their 10 match schedule to determine their representatives at the 2006 World Cup in Germany.
The United States, fresh off its protracted labor dispute, travel to Queen’s Oval Park in Port of Spain, Trinidad to battle the only team remaining from the Caribbean, the Soca Warriors of Trinidad and Tobago (2/9. 2:30pm EST ESPN2).
In 1989, the US began its soccer resurgence with a 1-0 win at Port of Spain on the final day of qualifying for the 1990 World Cup. While the US has become a respected team in the international arena, TnT has been unable to establish itself as a top team in the region. They will look to Wednesday’s match to begin a turnaround through English based players like Stern John, Shaka Hislop and Dwight Yorke who returns to the Soca Warrior lineup for the first time in 3 years. Angus Eve and Brent Rahim are also players to watch for TnT, who hope to catch the US under-prepared following the labor dispute.
Dwight Yorke (BBC)
For the US, Head Coach Bruce Arena is happy to have all of his top stars available including players such as DaMarcus (Run DMB) Beasley, who’s having a great year in Holland with PSV, Ed Johnson who has had a brilliant start to his international career and Landon Donovan who has recently moved to the German Bundesliga. Eddie Pope, who has recently signed with expansion side Real Salt Lake, will be available to anchor the back line. The US is favored to be one of the 3 teams to grab an automatic ticket to Germany 2006 but they’ll want to get the maximum 3 points out of this match as their second outing is a trip to the daunting Estadio Azteca in Mexico City.
Eddie Pope (BBC)
Speaking of Mexico, the Tri-Color will begin their quest for a 13th trip to the Big Show with a trip to San Jose, Costa Rica against the dangerous Ticos (2/9 8:30 EST, Telemundo). It’ll be a big step up in competition for Ricardo LaVolpe’s side who has been running through lower-tier CONCACAF competition like Dominica (10-0) and St. Kitts and Nevis (8-0) like whoa. Jared Borghetti and the volatile Cuauhtemoc Blanco lead Mexico’s efficient strike force.
The Ticos made a stuttering start to their World Cup qualifying campaign by just getting by Cuba but they emerged from a tough semifinal group and hope to repeat their feat of winning the Hex group as they did for the 2002 World Cup. Players such as Chicago Fire forward Andy Herron, Steven Bryce and the most well known Tico, Paulo Wanchope of FC Malaga in Spain (who incidentally as an exchange student in the US once scored 47 points in a high school game) will look to lead Costa Rica to its 2nd straight World Cup.
Paulo Wanchope (BBC)
Panama and Guatemala are the two surprise teams in the final round. They’ll start their impossible dream of reaching Germany with a 7pm EST match (closed circuit TV) in Panama City. Panama pipped Jamaica for the final spot out of their qualifying group through the play of Julio Dely-Valdes and Robert Brown. This is the farthest Panama has ever gotten in World Cup qualifying.
Julio Dely-Valdes (univision)
Guatemala came out on top of its semifinal group that featured Costa Rica, Canada and Honduras. Carlos Ruiz of the LA Galaxy has led the resurgence of a side that last made it to World Cup in 1982 and he gets help from Juan Carlos Plata.
Other international matches of note taking place on Wednesday include:
Germany v. Argentina- An international exhibition that pits two countries with 5 World Cups between them. For Germany it’ll be a brief respite from the growing match-fixing scandal.
Greece v. Denmark- The reigning European champions look to get their qualification campaign back on track as they host Denmark in a World Cup qualifier.
Morocco v. Kenya- The African runner’s up host a side who missed their first two qualification matches because their Football Association had been disbanded by the government.
England v. Holland- As reported in the Black Box on Friday, England will host the Netherlands in an exhibition. England will be wearing a Kick it Out slogan on their uniforms as they lead the fight against racism in European football. Both teams feature a number of Black players.
Speaking of the Black Box, the author of that Friday column suggested that had their been Anti-Semitic chants similar to the ones heard at the Estadio Bernabeu last year that the response would have been more vociferous.
That’s not the case.
SS Lazio, a team in Italy’s Serie A has a section of fans known as the Ultras who are notorious for their racist chanting and banners. Jews are frequent targets of their stupidity as their cross town rivals, AS Roma enjoy a large Jewish fan base. The Ultras have praised Anti-Semitic figures and have raised banners that read in part “Auschwitz are your homes.”
While the Spanish Football Assoc. can boast of levying a whopping $794 fine against Athletico Madrid for directing monkey sounds at Brazillian Roberto Carlos, no such fine has been levyed at SS Lazio, aside from having to play a game at an empty stadium. It would appear that spines are not in abundance among the upper echelon of football authorities.
Enjoy the beautiful game