The island nation of Curaçao is trying to make waves in this year’s CONCACAF Gold Cup. We look at their journey as they prepare to begin play.
Lying just north of Venezuela in the Caribbean Sea, Curaçao, a territory of the Netherlands, is a small island with a population of just over 150,000. Much like the history of its own nation, the Curaçao National Team has had a lengthy history of their own, being tied with other islands around them or falling under the umbrella or bigger nations, but in March of 2011, FIFA announced that Curaçao would be the officially sanctioned successor to the dissolved Netherland Antilles. Curaçao has already found success since they became sanctioned, and now look to add an Open Cup run into their cache.
Curaçao qualified for the 2017 Gold Cup thanks to their play in the 2017 Caribbean Cup, where the top four teams earn an automatic spot in the tournament. Curaçao didn’t just finish in the top four, they won the Cup, beating island standouts Jamaica in the final. Winger Elson Hooi, who played for NAC Breda’s academy before joining the first team in the Eredivisie for a few seasons and now current plays in the top-flight of Denmark, had a brace in the 2-1 final win.
Former Ajax product Gino van Kessel and FC Twente attacker Felitciano Zschusschen both tied for the Golden Boot of the tournament with seven goals each, and, along with Hooi, are just a few examples of how Dutch players eligible to play for the island nation have helped turn the Caribbean nation into a darkhorse.
Team captain Cuco Martino has had a very respectable career. The 27-year-old right back is currently a free agent after spending the last few years with Southampton of the English Premier League. Martino and current Aston Villa midfielder, Leandro Bacuna, will try to lead Curaçao to Group C glory.
Curaçao opens up cup play on Sunday against a familiar Jamaica side in San Diego. They will then take on El Salvador in Denver in another winnable contest, then will try to upset tournament favorites Mexico in San Antonio before trying to advance to the knockout round.
Don’t overlook these guys as they definitely are packing a bigger punch compared to the typical island teams we see in the Gold Cup, and they are out to prove they have what it takes to compete with the major players of the region.