Martinique and Panama strike Gold in Los Angeles
By Nick Webster
The 2013 Gold Cup is barely four hours old an already the competition has been shaken to its foundations.
Martinique with a population of just over 400K stunned Canada 1-0 in Group A play thanks to a 25-yard screamer from Fabrice Reuperne while Panama dethroned the 2011 champions Mexico thanks to the brilliance of Alberto Quintero and goals of Gabriel Torres.
With close to 60,000 in attendance at the historic Rose Bowl, the Gold Cup feels like it's finally grown up and is more than a jolly up for the big boys and a holiday for the minnows.
What impressed me with Martinique was that they tried to play, didn't park the bus and kept going to the end, which is why they deservedly got the winner and what irony surrounded that sumptuous strike.
Back in the 2002 edition of the Gold Cup at the quarter-final stage, Reuperne had missed in the penalty shootout against Canada, a miss that sent his country crashing out of the competition. How sweet for him to banish those memories with an early candidate for the goal of the tournament.
As for Canada, the less sad the better. To call them poor would be an insult to poor and they'll be heading back North when they lose to Mexico on Thursday.
El Tri can't afford to make the same mistake they made against Panama and that's not showing up, but hey, let's give Panama all the credit because they were great value for the three points in the 2-1 victory.
A brace from Gabriel Torres which must have opened some eyes in Major League Soccer combined with silky, skillful wing play from Alberto Quintero meant that the Panamanians could play with confidence as Mexico poured on the pressure in the 2nd half after stealing a late 1st half equalizer through Raul Jimenez.
A mixture of great goalkeeping thanks to Jaime Penedo, solid defending from Roman Torres and a couple of winks from lady luck all contributed to an outstanding display ffrom Panama who sit two points behind Mexico in the Hex but now three points ahead of them in the Gold Cup.
Mexican coach, Jose Manuel De La Torre must be fearing for his job right about now as El Tri have been disappointing in World Cup Qualifying and despite the occasional spell of good football in the Confederations Cup look short on ideas and confidence. A major improvement is needed against the hapless Canadians to restore that magic ingredient known as belief.
Sunday was a perfect way for the 2013 Gold Cup to start and bodes well for the remainder of the three week tournament.