TAMPA, Fla. – Believe it or not, Guadeloupe have never faced a do-or-die scenario in the group stage of the CONCACAF Gold Cup.
In 2007 and 2009, they were the surprise team of the continental tournament, collecting points from their first two group matches in both editions. But when they face Canada at Raymond James Stadium on Saturday night, a positive result is a must to stay alive after an opening match loss to Panama.
“We know that now we have to win against Canada,” Guadeloupe and Sporting Kansas City midfielder Stephane Auvray told MLSsoccer.com. “We think we can win the game. We always step on the field and think that we can win the game against anybody.
“From what we know about Canada, we have the potential to get the three points even if it’s going to be hard. We can do it. We can do it.”
History is on Guadeloupe’s side. They defeated Canada 2-1 in the second match of the group stage in 2007 in a match played at the Orange Bowl in Miami.
“We had quality players back then, including Jocelyn Angloma, and they were a better group than this one,” Guadeloupe manager Roger Salnot told MLSsoccer.com through an interpreter. “But for this second game I expect the team to be better physically and tactically and that’s going to allow us to play better and be positioned better overall.”
Salnot was disappointed in the defensive performance of his team, conceding two goals in a two-minute span of the first half against Panama that proved too steep an obstacle to overcome.
Auvray says his team “lost on the details” against Panama but he was encouraged by the second-half display in which they came within a goal of a tie after going down 3-0. He felt that the two-forward set-up they played after the break allowed them to impact the match even though they were playing down a man.
Salnot is keeping his options open on whether to start with two forwards against Canada. He also has a decision to make on who will play at right back with Mickael Tacalfred serving a suspension for his red card against Panama. Salnot did concede that it won’t be Loic Loval, an attacking player who slotted in at right back to fill the void in the match played at Ford Field.
Auvray indicated that fans can expect an improved Guadeloupe side simply for the reason that they have 90 minutes under their belt. The national team barely gets together for camps because clubs are not required to release their players to a national association that is not yet recognized by FIFA given it forms part of France.
David Fleurival, who plays for FC Metz in France, was Auvray’s partner in central midfield against Panama. But the last time they played together was back in 2009 against Nicaragua. The Sporting KC midfielder last played in a match with compatriot and forward Richard Socrier back in 2007.
Regardless of Guadeloupe’s unique reality, they still want to maintain their perfect record of advancing to the quarterfinals for the third consecutive Gold Cup tournament.
“The aspiration is still to go to the second round because we know we can still do it -- nothing really changes,” Auvray said. “People know us, they know our qualities and they know we can really do well in this competition.
“It’s not really about the opponent but about us and how fast we can get together. The first game is going to help us a lot and I hope in the second one [vs. Canada] we’ll start playing from the first minute and we act and not react.”