Winning the Copa de Naciones Digicel a Good Start to World Cup Camp: Costa Rica determined to Defend Title while Home Play Could Give Edge to Honduras
As the Copa de Naciones Digicel gets underway on Thursday, January 22nd in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, Costa Rica, El Salvador and Honduras are the clear favorites to win the seven-team sub-regional championship that will qualify the last five teams for the CONCACAF Gold Cup. Only three countries have ever won the Copa de Naciones de Digicel since it was initiated in 1991: Costa Rica (6), Honduras (2) and Guatemala (1). Another title win for Costa Rica would continue to solidify its reputation as one of the dominant teams in Central America, and offer a momentum boost as it tries for a third consecutive appearance at the World Cup. According to CONCACAF President and FIFA Vice President, Jack Warner, who is traveling to Honduras to attend the Opening Ceremony: ?the 2009 Copa de Naciones Digicel promises to one of the most exciting ever as many international players are traveling home to play with their national teams?.
Costa Rica already should have plenty of confidence going into the January 22-February 1st event. It was the only team in CONCACAF to get through to the semifinal round of qualifying without a loss or even a draw in six matches, outscoring its opponents 20-3.
Honduras will be playing at home which is hoped to bring its advantages while El Salvador will be calling in two new players with US experience; Twenty-three-year-old forward Arturo Alvarez who plays for the San Jose Earthquakes of Major League soccer and Edwin Miranda of the Puerto Rico Islanders. While Costa Rica, Honduras and El Salvador are the hot favourites to qualify through to the CONCACAF Gold Cup, Nicaragua and Belize may surprise teams such as Guatemala or Panama and break their streak of never qualifying for the CONCACAF Finals. Belize has never advanced past the first round of the Copa de Naciones Digicel in five tries, but Nicaragua finished fifth in 2005, a result that could earn it a place among the 12-nation CONCACAF Gold Cup field this time around.