With Mexico and Canada predictably finishing one and two in Group A at the Concacaf Gold Cup, much of the drama of the group stage has already passed. Although the final three groups have yet to play their final games, four of the other six teams that will play in the quarterfinals have already been decided.
From Group B, which wraps up play tonight, Costa Rica and Haiti will face off to determine their order, with Bermunda and Nicaragua fighting for scraps at the bottom of the group. Likewise, on Wednesday night, the USA and Panama will battle for the top spot of Group D, with Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana angling to finish third.
The one last bit of drama in the group stage is reserved for Group C, which finishes up on Tuesday night. Because of Curacao's shocking 1-0 win over Honduras last Friday, Los Catrachos have already been eliminated from the tournament. That leaves three teams — Jamaica, El Salvador, and Curacao — with the potential to finish first, second, or third (Curacao could also finish fourth).
Here's a breakdown of the scenarios for each team heading into the games at Banc of California Stadium in Los Angeles on Tuesday night.
Jamaica - 1st place, 4 points
A 3-2 win over Honduras and a 0-0 draw against El Salvador has put the Reggae Boyz in the driver's seat heading into the final group-stage game, to be played at Los Angeles FC's Banc of California Stadium. At a minimum, Jamaica will secure their passage through with a draw against Curacao. That won't guarantee them the top spot, though, and El Salvador could conceivably jump Jamaica on goal differential even if both teams win.
Theodore Whitmore's side came into the tournament feeling good about their chances, having recently defeated the U.S. 1-0 in a friendly. There haven't been too many scares in the first two games for Jamaica, but the side that has lost in back-to-back Gold Cup finals should have their sights set a bit higher than just getting out of this group.
Should Jamaica find a way to get knocked out in the group stage, it would represent the biggest shock of this year's Gold Cup. It's simple enough for them to avoid that fate, but Jamaica need another good performance to ensure their advancement.
El Salvador - 2nd place, 4 points
Just behind Jamaica on goals scored is El Salvador. Los Cuscatlecos took care of business in the opening game against Curacao, winning 1-0 on a first-half stoppage time goal from Nelson Bonilla. Then there was the battling 0-0 draw against Jamaica, which has put the Central American side in a good spot to make the quarterfinals.
But between them and a spot in the final eight at the Gold Cup is bitter rivals Honduras. Their neighbors might not have much to play for themselves, but Honduras can play the part of spoiler and knock El Salvador out of the tournament. However, El Salvador would also have to have an unfavorable result in the game between Jamaica and Curacao to be eliminated.
Curacao - 3rd place, 3 points
The Caribbean nation caused the biggest upset of the tournament last week when they beat Honduras 1-0. Sitting just off the coast of South America, Curacao only has 160,000 residents in the country. However, being a constituent country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Curacao can call upon Dutch residents to represent the country.
And indeed, it was Leandro Bacuna, who was born in the Netherlands but spend most of his professional career playing in England, who scored the winning goal for Curacao. But make no mistake, if Remko Bicentini's side can make the quarterfinal stage, it will be quite the accomplishment. This is only the second appearance at the Gold Cup for Curacao, with the first coming in the last edition.
Curacao has the most work to do though to get into the quarterfinals, but a win over Jamaica would ensure their passage. That specific result may or may not be enough for Curacao to win the group, that would depend on the result in the other game. A draw might also be enough for Curacao, but again, that depends on El Salvador's result. A draw for Curacao and El Salvador won't be enough for the Caribbean side to get to the quarterfinals.
A loss, on the other hand, would immediately eliminate Curacao.
These final two games aren't played at the same time either, since they are taking place at the same venue. Curacao will play first, which means they might have to stick around afterward to see if Honduras can do them any favors.
Much has already been decided in the group stage of this Gold Cup, but Group C could still have a trick or two up its sleeve on Tuesday night.