Australia Open champion, Naomi Osaka, has described watching Jamaica sprint king Usain Bolt performing at the Olympics as her most memorable moment.

Bolt, who retired from the sport of track and field in 2017, will not be competing at the Games in Tokyo this summer but in many ways still looms large over a sport he dominated for close to a decade.

At the 2016 Rio Games, the last time the event was held, Bolt destroyed the field in typical fashion, en route to three gold medals in the 100m, 200m, and 4x100m.  On debut, at the 2008 Beijing Games, Bolt set massive world records in both the 100m and 200m sprints.

Overall, Bolt finished his csareer with 8 Olympic gold medals.  With such dominant performances, it is little wonder that Osaka, who has Caribbean roots herself with her father hailing from the island of Haiti, enjoyed watching the Jamaican in his prime.  Osaka, who is likely to attempt to win a gold medal for Japan this summer, recently shared what the quadrennial event has meant to her over the years.

“When I think of the Olympics, what comes to mind is, of course, the opening ceremony, just seeing all the people being so happy,” Osaka said in an interview posted on the ITF official website.

“My like most outstanding Olympic memory is just watching Bolt run. He’s my favorite athlete and for my whole family. My dad really loves his running so we would just like to watch him.”

Haiti will take on St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Guatemala faces Guyana while Trinidad and Tobago will go up against Monserrat when Round One of the preliminaries of the 2021 CONCACAF Gold Cup kicks off on July 2 and 3 at Inter Miami CF Stadium in Florida.

Cuba will tackle French Guiana, Guadeloupe will battle The Bahamas and Bermuda go up against Barbados in what will be the first time ever that the competition will have preliminaries that will see three teams qualify for the 16-team Group Stage.

“We look forward with great anticipation to this summer’s Gold Cup, which will undoubtedly be enhanced by this new Preliminary Round,” said Concacaf President and FIFA Vice President Victor Montagliani.

“The past year has been very challenging in our region and our thoughts are with all the communities that have suffered. We hope the opportunity to watch the best men’s national teams in Concacaf compete in our flagship tournament can provide fans with some hope and enjoyment

All 12 of the competing nations in the Prelims will get a full Gold Cup experience at the excellent Inter Miami facilities and we look forward to a great set of games.”

“We look forward to hosting the Gold Cup Prelims tournament in our stadium,” said Inter Miami CF Managing Owner Jorge Mas. “Our facilities in Fort Lauderdale were built with the intent of giving our fans opportunities to enjoy the world’s game knowing that our vibrant culture and sports-centric region would be attractive for global teams and competitions. This is just the beginning of the great things that lie ahead.”

Round Two will begin on July 6 when the winner of the Haiti/St Vincent clash will take on the winner of the Bermuda/Barbados matchup. The winner of the Guatemala/Guyana encounter will play the winner of the Guadeloupe/Bahamas match. And finally, the winner of the Cuba/French Guiana match will tackle the winner of the Trinidad and Tobago/Montserrat clash.

The winning nation in each of the three Round Two matchups will advance to the Group Stage of the 2021 Concacaf Gold Cup, where they were drawn into Group A, B and C as follows:

Group A: Mexico, El Salvador, Curacao, and Winner Prelims 9

Group B: USA, Canada, Martinique, and Winner Prelims 7

Group C: Costa Rica, Jamaica, Suriname, and Winner Prelims 8

Group D: Honduras, Panama, Grenada, and Qatar.

The 2021 Concacaf Gold Cup group stage will kick off on July 10 and run through August 1, 2021, and will feature 16 national teams, of which Canada, Costa Rica, Curaçao, El Salvador, Grenada, Honduras, Jamaica, Martinique, eight-time and defending champion Mexico, Panama, Suriname, six-time champion the United States, are already qualified to the group stage of the tournament. Additionally, Qatar has been invited to the tournament as the current champion and representative of the Asian Football Confederation.

The remaining three countries will qualify through the Gold Cup Prelims, in which 12 Member Associations will compete for the final three spots, to be played July 2-6- at Inter Miami CF Stadium in South Florida.

 

 

 Joshua Perez bagged a brace to lead El Salvador to a 2-1 win over Haiti in their Group B finale of the 2020 Concacaf Men’s Olympic Qualifying Championship on Thursday at the Estadio Jalisco in Guadalajara, Mexico.

With the victory, El Salvador’s hopes of reaching the knockout round are still alive, pending the result of the Canada-Honduras match.

El Salvador started off by poking and prodding the Haitian defence before breaking through in the 19’ with a superb strike from Joshua Perez, who received a pass in between a pair of defenders and fired in a left-footed shot to make it a 1-0 El Salvador lead.

The joy was short-lived though, as less than two minutes later Haiti pulled back level 1-1 when an El Salvador giveaway in their own half led to a quick break, with Roberto Louima fighting off a trio of defenders and beating El Salvador GK Tomas Romero for the equalizer.

El Salvador would then regain the lead right before halftime, with Perez following up his header that deflected off the post and finishing with his left foot to make it 2-1 to El Salvador.

El Salvador was keen to add to their lead to start the second half and had several looks at goal, but was unable to find a way past Haiti GK Alan Jerome.

The reprieve sparked Haiti to life in attack and Louima, along with Peterson Joseph, suddenly had the Salvadoran defence and Romero on their heels.

Danley Jean had one final look at goal for Haiti, but was unable to convert, allowing El Salvador to see things out to claim the win.

Meanwhile, Honduras claimed the top spot in Group B of the 2020 Concacaf Men’s Olympic Qualifying championship by virtue of a 1-1 draw with Canada in their group stage finale on Thursday night at the Estadio Jalisco in Guadalajara, Mexico.

The Catrachos completed the group stage with five points and a first-place finish and will now face the United States in Sunday’s semifinals in which the winner will advance to the 2020 Olympics In Tokyo.

Canada wrapped up their Group B campaign with five points as well, finishing second on goal difference and will now take on host nation Mexico in hopes of a first Olympic berth since 1984.

Honduras had a bright start and Kervin Arriaga came within a whisker of the opening goal in the 9’ with a right-footed shot that slammed onto the post and out.

Canada reacted well and after missing on an earlier header, Derek Cornelius found the target in the 28’ on his second attempt to give Canada a 1-0 lead by connecting on a cross from Patrick Metcalfe.

 Honduras’ response was immediate and two minutes later in the 30’ Denil Maldonado was first to reach Edwin Rodriguez’s free-kick and headed in past Canada GK James Pantemis to draw the Catrachos level 1-1.

The second half started off with a good tempo and Juan Carlos Obregon was set to give the Hondurans their first lead of the night in the 54’, but was unable to head into the net from just a few yards out.

In the 73’ it was Luis Palma almost converting on a loose ball in the area but the Honduran attacker saw his shot blocked by Pantemis.

In the end, Honduras were never able to find a second goal, but the result was enough to seal a first-place finish.

 

 

 

Haiti kicked off the second day of the First Round of Concacaf World Cup Qualifying for Qatar 2022 with a 2-0 home victory against Belize.

The home side dominated the proceedings in Port-au-Prince in the first half but was unable to beat Belize goalkeeper Woodrow West until the 50th minute, with Ricardo Ade getting free in the box to head in a corner kick.

It was another corner kick that doubled Haiti’s lead, with Steven Seance taking advantage of some confusion in the box to knock in another in the 80th minute.

Belize now makes the quick trip to the Dominican Republic for a contest with the Turks and Caicos Islands, who also serve as Haiti’s next opponent when qualification resumes in June.

Meanwhile, the Guus Hiddink era got off to a strong start for Curacao, which beat Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, 5-0.

Curacao applied a press from the opening window and forced a turnover that Juninho Bacuna was able to tap in for the opener. Anthony van den Hurk then scored in his debut in the 17th minute, with Bacuna adding his second of the night in the 35th minute.

Jarchino Antonio sent the teams into the Ergilio Hato Stadium locker rooms at 4-0 with a goal just before the halftime break, before Curacao capped things in the 87th minute with Leandro Bacuna spurring a counter-attack and Elson Hooi finishing the move.

Trinidad and Tobago also enjoyed a big win Thursday, getting past Guyana, 3-0. Levi Garcia got things started early with a lovely individual goal, squeezing past the defenders and the end line and then firing home in the seventh minute.

A free-kick from Ryan Telfer deflected off CB Sheldon Bateau’s thigh and into the goal in the 15th minute to extend the Trinidad and Tobago lead.

It was three when Telfer pounced on an error from Guyana GK Akel Clarke in the 44th minute, with the goalkeeper fumbling an attempt to collect and Telfer able to finish into the open net.

Canada kept pace with Suriname atop Group B, seeing off a challenge from Bermuda with a 5-1 win.

Alphonso Davies whipped in a free-kick from the right side in the 19th minute that found Cyle Larin and went in for the opening goal.

In the 27th minute, Davies came down the left side of Canada’s attack and beat Bermuda GK Dale Eve to a ball. He once again connected with Larin, who was able to power his finish into the net before Eve fully recovered.

Richie Laryea added to the lead, surging forward from left-back in the 53rd minute and scoring the first goal of his national team career.

Milan Borjan kept his net clean for more than an hour but dropped a ball that Kane Crichlow pounced on to bring one back. But Davies and Larin linked up once again in the 68th minute to complete Larin’s hat trick and Theo Corbeanu scored in his debut after his run took Bermuda by surprise and Liam Millar found him in the box.

Panama and Barbados looked destined for a scoreless draw with both teams getting opportunities but sending them wide of the goal or off the post.

Then, in the 82nd minute, Jair Catuy’s run into the box went unchecked and Jose Murillo found him for a diving header that put the 2018 FIFA World Cup participant in the lead.

Thomas Christiansen’s squad saw out the 1-0 result to open qualification with a victory.

In the nightcap at the Estadio Cuscatlan, El Salvador scored a goal in each half to claim a 2-0 win over Grenada.

Gerson Mayen brought a ball down in the box, used his left foot to move horizontally with the ball and then beat Grenada GK Jason Belfon.

Mayen turned provider on the second goal, as El Salvador scored just one minute into the second half on a break.

Mayen’s through ball found David Tony Rugamas, whose shot took a deflection and landed in the goal.

El Salvador now travels to meet Montserrat, while Grenada returns to St. George’s to welcome the U.S. Virgin Islands.

CONCACAF has announced the cancellation of both its Under-17 and Under-20 youth championships in light of FIFA’s recent announcement to shutter the FIFA U-17 and U-20 Men’s World Cups, scheduled to take place in Peru and Indonesia later this year.

The U-20 tournament was originally scheduled to be held in Honduras between 20 June and 5 July 2020.  However, following the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic the tournament was initially pushed forward to later this year.  The U-17 competition suffered a similar fate.

With the spread of the virus continuing to affect safety concerns and travelling ability, FIFA announced the decision to cancel both tournaments last week.  With the CONCACAF tournaments serving as qualifiers for the World Cups, the confederation decided to follow suit. As part of the decision, FIFA announced the next editions will be held in 2023 at the venues that were to host the 2021 editions of the tournaments.

 Jamaica (1999, 2011), Trinidad and Tobago (2001, 2007) and Haiti (2007, 2019), and Cuba (1989, 1991) are the Caribbean teams to have qualified for the FIFA Under-17 World Cup editions.  At the Under-20 level Trinidad and Tobago (1991, 2009) Jamaica (2001), and Cuba (2013) have qualified to the finals.

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