The Caribbean Championship Finals kick off in Jamaica on Wednesday. The four tournament semifinalists will earn a spot in the 2009 CONCACAF Gold Cup.
The Digicel Caribbean Championship Finals will kick off Wednesday at the National Stadium in Kingston, Jamaica. The opening night double-header will feature all four teams from Group A.
Trinidad and Tobago will kick off the action against Grenada. The second match will see the host nation take on Barbados.
Group B will begin action on Thursday with a similar twin-bill at Jarrett Park in Montego Bay. Cup holders Haiti will open Thursday’s action against Antigua and Barbuda with Guadeloupe and Cuba squaring off in the second match.
Each group will play a round-robin with the top two teams advancing to the semifinals. The semifinal is set up to be a single-leg knockout round. Both semifinal matches are scheduled to take place on December 11th at National Stadium. The final will be held three days later at the same location.
Trinidad and Tobago enters the competition as the only team from the Caribbean still alive in World Cup Qualifying. The Soca Warriors will come into the Caribbean Championships a bit shorthanded. A number of T&T’s European-based players did not make the trip to Jamaica, including captain Dwight Yorke.
Yet the Trinidadians still enter the tournament as favorites to win. In the thirteen previous Caribbean Cup finals, T&T has won eight times and never finished lower than third.
Jamaica will be looking to duplicate their successful run at the 2005 Caribbean Cup. The Reggae Boyz should benefit from being the host nation for this tournament. Despite not making it to the final round of World Cup Qualifying, Jamaica kept a perfect home record in four WCQ matches. Their qualifying wins over Mexico, Canada, and Honduras showed just how difficult playing the Jamaicans at the National Stadium can be.
Jamaica has won three Caribbean titles, including most recently in 2005, and trails only T&T in the number of Caribbean Championships won.
Haiti will be the favorites to advance in Group B. Les Grenadiers automatically qualified for the competition by winning the 2007 Caribbean title over T&T. Haiti became only the fourth nation to ever win the tournament.
Cuba will be the biggest threat to the Haitians in Group B. The up-and-coming Cubans scored eight goals against Group B rivals Guadeloupe in two World Cup Qualifying matches.
Finally, Guadeloupe turned some heads at the 2007 Gold Cup. The small archipelago with a population just over 400,000 beat Canada and Honduras before falling 1-0 to Mexico in the semi-finals.
The four semi-finalists will qualify for the CONCACAF Gold Cup. The Gold Cup is scheduled to take place in July of 2009.
--Allen Ramsey, Goal.com