Gold Cup predictions
Everybody's favorite continental championship is back. Ok, ok...Hey, at least it's better than Oceania's. For some real fake enthusiasm, see Peter Goldstein's preview and especially the first paragraph. The good news is that this time, there are no more three team groups. They're going with the Copa America format with three four-team groups which is a nice change. The top two teams in each group advance, along with the best two third-place teams. The whole thing is basically a way for teams to test their younger players, which is a shame compared to Euro 2004 and the others (although, the Copa America is becoming a joke too).
Colombia is bringing a stronger squad than previously thought, although they're still missing several top guys. But it should be more than enough to win the group. Honduras is without captain Amado Guevara. Even though they didn't make the hex, they're still better than Panama and Trinidad and should finish second. However, the Soca Warriors seem to be on the rise, and they played very well against Panama and Mexico in the recent qualifiers. I'll pick them to finish second in an upset.
1. United States
2. Costa Rica
It seems like first and second are easy picks. Both teams are missing some top players, but the USA beat Costa Rica with the full teams, and they should do it again. Canada are likely to go 1-2 in the group stage, although they always seem to pull off upsets in this tournament. Cuba is the worst team in the tournament.
4. South Africa
Mexico has called in several of the Confederations Cup squad and should easily win the group. They'll have a better home field advantage than the USA. The battle for second should be a good one. South Africa's preparation has been a joke and I see them bringing up the rear. Guatemala and Jamaica are pretty close in talent, but Guatemala has been playing big games all year and should finish second.
Colombia over Costa Rica
United States over Jamaica
Mexico over Honduras
Guatemala over Trinidad
United States over Colombia
Mexico over Guatemala
United States over Mexico
I have no idea which third place team will be left out, but it doesn't really matter as the "lucky" teams will be facing Mexico and the USA. The other two matchups will be much more interesting. The USA will have a much tougher semifinal than Mexico, although both teams should meet in the final. Anything else would be a huge surprise. I'll pick the USA to win as they are missing fewer players, and Mexico already gave it their all in a more important tournament.
I think the teams with the potential to surprise would be Honduras and Jamaica. Both were upset and failed to reach the hex, and now this is all they have to play for until the next Gold Cup. But they have a tough road to make a real impact (which would the semis).