|Piquionne's Premiership experience |
could be key
Since a disappointing performance in the last Caribbean Cup, Martinique have been on fine run losing just twice in their last 15 games. The defeats were to Confederations Cup finalists Tahiti and fellow non-FIFA side Guadeloupe, who they knocked out in qualification in October. Les Matinino scored a staggering 29 goals in their 6 qualifiers with hot-shot Kevin Parsemain bagging 11. The experienced Steeve Gustan often joins him up-front and the forward line will be greatly boosted by the call-up of Frédéric Piquionne, recently released by West Ham United. The inclusion of 6 overseas players boosts their backline in particular, with Arles-Avignon defender Gaël Germany and Bordeaux goalkeeper Kévin Olimpa likely to start. The island last qualified for the Gold Cup in 2003 and with their current form will fancy this to be their best chance since. Much will depend on their opening game, tomorrow against Cuba, but they have a more than realistic chance of making it to the United States next summer.
|French Guiana line-up a free-kick |
French Guiana were perhaps the most surprising qualifier, having only made the finals once before way back in 1995. The Guyanese have played more games in 2012 than the entire 7 years previous, and they raised eyebrows when they knocked out hosts Grenada and larger neighbours Guyana to reach the finals. Striker Gary Pigrée scored 7 goals during qualification including the winner in a shock victory over regional big-boys Haiti. Former Rangers forward Jean-Claude Darcheville was important in their campaign but at the age of 37 he can’t be relied on. Lens defender Ludovic Baal is another experienced name, along with Dijon’s Lesly Malouda, brother of Florent. French Guiana might find it a bridge too far in Antigua but given their performances so far it would be foolish to write them off.
Both teams start their campaign tomorrow night with Martinique taking on Cuba at 17:00 local time (21:00 U.K.) followed by Jamaica versus French Guiana at 19:00 (23:00 U.K). All the group matches are on our fixtures page. Updates will be available via our Twitter service @NonFIFAfootball.