Gold Cup Team Preview: Cuba / by Drew Olsen

By Drew Olsen (@drewjolsen)

On paper, Cuba is the worst team in this tournament. With both their FIFA and ELO rankings in the triple-digits, simply not losing any players to defection might be enough to satisfy many in Cuba. Mixed recent results - they drew fellow group C members Trinidad & Tobago 0-0 in last year’s Caribbean Cup, but also tied Curacao (177th in ELO) twice last month – make predictions difficult, but not being embarrassed in every game would probably be a successful tournament.

Getting information on this team is difficult because they’re the only roster that is made up entirely of players that play in their domestic league, and getting information into and out of Cuba isn’t exactly easy. Their greatest asset may come from how little their opponents know about them.

Group C
CountryAvg AgeAvg CapsELOrankFIFArank
Mexico 27.5 34.6 15 23
Guatemala 27.3 24.9 81 93
T&T 25.7 22 88 67
Cuba 25.9 18 118 107

How did they get here?
Cuba qualified by finishing 4th in the 2014 Caribbean Cup, losing 2-1 to Haiti in the 3rd place game.

What Group are they in?
They are in group C, along with Guatemala, Trinidad & Tobago, and Mexico. The group winner will play the 3rd place team of either group A or B. The runner-up will play Group B runner up (probably Canada or Jamaica), and if the 3rd place team qualifies for the knockout round, they will play the group A winner (probably the USA).

How are they are ranked?
ELO ranking: 118, FIFA ranking: 107

Who is their Head Coach?
Raúl González Triana was named head coach of the Lions of the Caribbean (their nickname game is strong) in 2005, stepped down after the 2007 Caribbean Cup (Cuba finished 3rd), was re-appointed in late 2008, stepped down at the end of 2012 to lead Cuba in their first appearance at the U20 World Cup in 2013, then was re-appointed as coach of the senior team in January 2015. He was suspended five games in November for racist remarks to a referee. In short, he’s had a long and tumultuous career coaching Cuba.

Arael Arguellez GK FC Cienfuegos Cuba 28 1
Diosvelis Guerra GK FC Artemisa Cuba 26 9
Sandy Sanchez GK FC Las Tunas Cuba 21 2
Jorge Luis Clavelo D FC Villa Clara Cuba 32 46
Jorge Luis Corrales D FC Pinar del Río Cuba 24 31
Adrian Diz Pe D FC La Habana Cuba 21 10
Hanier Dranguet D FC Guantánamo Cuba 32 32
Angel Horta D FC Camagüey Cuba 31 0
Yasmany Lopez D FC Ciego de Ávila Cuba 27 10
Yénier Márquez D FC Villa Clara Cuba 36 114
Andy Vaquero D FC La Habana Cuba 21 1
Yaisnier Napoles D FC Camagüey Cuba 27 0
Dairon Blanco M FC Las Tunas Cuba 23 0
Alain Cervantes M FC Ciego de Ávila Cuba 31 64
Felix Guerra M CF Granma Cuba 26 9
Aricheel Hernandez M Arichel Hernandez Cuba 21 7
Daniel Luis M FC La Habana Cuba 21 0
Ariel Martinez M FC Sancti Spíritus Cuba 29 50
Liban Dairon Perez M FC Camagüey Cuba 21 1
Dario Suarez M FC La Habana Cuba 22 0
Armando Coroneaux F FC Camagüey Cuba 29 20
Keiler Garcia F FC Camagüey Cuba 25 0
Maikel Reyes F FC Pinar del Río Cuba 22 6

Who are the important players that I should know?
Yénier Márquez is the all-time leader in caps for his country with 114, and is still a force to be reckoned with, even at age 36. He scored against Curacao, and will be relied on by his team as both a playmaker and a leader.

Group Stage Schedule
DateTime (ET)CityVenueHomeAway
09-Jul 9:30PM Chicago Soldier Field MEX CUB
12-Jul 6:30PM Phoenix U. of Phoenix Stadium TNT CUB
15-Jul 6:00PM Charlotte Bank of America Stadium CUB GUA

Andy Vaquero is only 21, but has shown great promise. In his first and only cap for his country last month against the Cosmos, he scored the lone goal for Cuba. There are lots of veteran defenders on this roster, so he may struggle to find the field, but if any young player stands out, it is likely to be Vaquero.

Unless it is Maikel Reyes. While Vaquero will get forward from his defensive positions, the 22 year old Reyes is a true striker. He scored in a 3-0 victory over the Dominican Republic in March, and is most likely to make an impact as a late-game sub alongside probable starter Armando Coroneaux. Reyes only has six caps, but he’ll be looking to impress if he wants to become a regular player in World Cup Qualifying.

What have they done in the past?
2013: Lost in quarter-finals 6-1 to Panama
2011: Did not make it out of group play (0 points)
2009: Qualified, but withdrew before the tournament
2007: Did not make it out of Group Play (1 point, tied Panama)

What do we expect from them this go around?
Again, it’s difficult to know much about this squad so they may be capable of surprising some teams, but that seems unlikely. It’s the 2nd youngest team in the tournament and has the 2nd fewest caps on the roster, so any result will be a surprise. They’re likely to lose all three of their games, and will just hope to not get blown out. If they make headlines in the USA, it’s more likely to be because one of their player defects than because the team gets an unexpected result.