Haiti, Trinidad advance, Jamaica in doubt

As the 2012 Digicel Caribbean Cup Championship finals hit midpoint on Tuesday in Antigua and Barbuda, Haiti won Group A to advance to the semifinals and qualify for the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup; Trinidad and Tobago squeezed into the semifinals and qualified for its first Gold Cup since 2007, as the second place team in the group; but two-time defending champion Jamaica is in dire straits in Group B. The Jamaicans are in danger of being dethroned as Caribbean champion and miss the Gold Cup.

In the final of the three games in Group A at the Antigua Recreation Ground, the host needed a draw against Haiti (2-0-1, 7 pts.) to edge Trinidad and Tobago for second place, but this Antigua and Barbuda (1-2-0, 3 pts.) team was the same one that knocked Haiti out of the World Cup a year ago with a 1-0 home win, so revenge was on Haitian minds. Haiti returned the favor and kicked the host out of the Caribbean Cup finals by the same score. Haiti’s first-half goal was enough to turn back Antigua and Barbuda in a tense game that saw the hosts bombard the visitors with shot after shot on goal. In the end, Haiti had the last laugh.

Meanwhile, Trinidad and Tobago (1-1-1, 4 pts.) watched nervously as Haiti held on for victory, which helped Trinidad to finish in second place. The Trinidadians eliminated the Dominican Republic in a must-win victory, 2-1, in the earlier game, but had Antigua and Barbuda manage a draw, the Trinidadians would have been heading home. Fortunately for Trinidad and Tobago, a spill by Dominican Republic goalkeeper Miguel Lloyd in the 71st minute gave Kevin Molina the winner. Earlier, in the 14th minute, Kevon Carter’s goal gave Trinidad and Tobago the lead, but Kerbi Rodriguez equalized minutes later for Dominican Republic.

Trinidad and Tobago, the eight-time Caribbean champion, was on the brink of elimination after a slow start; the Trinidadians played to a goalless draw against Haiti in its opening game, before its 2-0 loss to Antigua and Barbuda in its second contest. Dominican Republic was considered the weakest team in Group A.

In Group B, playing at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in North Sound, heavily favored two-time defending champion and World Cup qualifying participant Jamaica (0-1-1, 1pt.) is in last place with only a point after two games. The defending champion was defeated in its first game, 2-1, by French Guyana and played to a goalless draw against group leader Martinique (1-0-1, 4 pts.). French Guyana (1-1-0 3 pts.) later lost to Cuba (1,1, 0 3 pts.), which lost its first game to Martinique by a Frederic Piquionne goal in the 29th minute.

In the Jamaica-French Guyana game, Gary Pigree scored his eighth goal in Caribbean Cup qualifying in the 19th minute to give newcomers French Guyana a 1-0 lead; he was assisted by former Glasgow Rangers (Scotland) and Bordeaux (France) player, Jean-Claude Darcheville. Jamaica goalkeeper Dwayne Miller mishandled the ball on the play. Jamaica equalized in the 22nd minute through an individual effort by Tramaine Stewart, who dribble down the right wing to score.

In the second half, despite Jamaica’s early aggressiveness to take the lead, it was Darcheville again who provided the assist for Rudy Evans to give French Guyana the 2-1 victory.

Group B is still wide open going into the last games as Jamaica must play Cuba and Martinique take on French Guyana. The top two teams in Group B will join Haiti and Trinidad and Tobago in Friday’s semifinals and also advance to next summer’s Gold Cup in the USA. The finals are scheduled for Sunday, Dec. 16 at the Antigua Recreation Ground in St. John’s.