MIAMI, Florida – To say that the competition in the 2019-20 Concacaf Nations League group stage was fierce is an understatement.
Across all Leagues, teams traded blows in trying to earn top spot in their group, and in some cases, a punched ticket to the 2021 Concacaf Gold Cup.
In League A, it was Group D that had everyone on edge until the final whistle on the final matchday. In the six matches played between Costa Rica, Curacao and Haiti, every match either ended in a draw or was decided by a single goal.
After a 0-0 draw at Costa Rica in week 4, Curacao was poised to clinch their spot in the Finals with a win at home in week 5 against the Ticos, but a Francisco Calvo goal in the 84’ spoiled any hopes of a Curacao celebration and gave Costa Rica a massive 2-1 win.
With Costa Rica on five points, Curacao on five points and Haiti on two points going into the final matchday with Costa Rica hosting Haiti, things were still up in the air, however a 1-1 draw was enough to send the Central Americans to the Finals, while Curacao managed to nail down a third consecutive Gold Cup berth thanks to their second-place finish.
Suriname fans won’t soon forget their team’s late surge to clinch a first-place finish in Group D of League B that earned their side a first-ever Gold Cup berth and promotion to League A.
Yet following a week 4 1-0 loss at home to Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, things were looking complicated, with both Vincy Heat and Nicaragua ahead in the table.
In week 5, Suriname took care of matters at home, as Gleofilo Vlijter scored his CNL-leading ninth and 10th goals in a 4-0 win over Dominica, while Saint Vincent and the Grenadines picked up a key 1-0 home victory against Nicaragua.
The results put Vincy Heat in the driver’s seat and they fancied their chances going into the final week playing away at a Dominica side still searching for their first win in the group, but Dominica summoned their best effort of the year and claimed a 1-0 win.
That opened the door later that night for Suriname, who gutted out a 2-1 win at Nicaragua to take top spot in the group and a historical Gold Cup qualification.
From the very beginning, Group A of League C was heavyweight fight between Barbados and Cayman Islands. The Cayman Islands drew first blood in week 2 with a 3-2 home win over Barbados, but by week 6 Barbados had revenge on their mind, as they prepared to host Cayman Islands.
For Barbados, only a win would suffice to finish first place in the group and receive promotion to League B, plus a spot in the 2021 Gold Cup qualifiers. Barbados never wavered, and on the strength of a Hallam Hope brace, Barbados won 3-0 to keep their Gold Cup dreams alive.