Say this for Group A at the Gold Cup on Tuesday: Even with only two goals scored over 180 minutes, it was hardly uneventful.
Costa Rica and Canada battled to a draw and remained comfortably atop the group, but the more interesting story came thanks to French Guiana, which knowingly played an ineligible player and will likely have to forfeit its scoreless draw against Honduras.
That the player is Florent Malouda, the longtime French international who started the 2006 World Cup final and won both the Champions League and Premier League with Chelsea, only adds to the intrigue.
Under Section XV.A. of the Gold Cup regulations, CONCACAF ruled before the tournament that Malouda was ineligible because he was cap-tied to France. That said, the governing body of North and Central American and Caribbean soccer couldn’t do anything to stop him playing beyond the forfeiture penalty.
Malouda didn’t play in the opener, and it’s unclear why French Guiana would condemn itself to a likely 3-0 defeat, other than possibly selling some hollow prestige in the future regarding the names who’ve represented the overseas region of France.
Honduras, meanwhile, may be awarded a win, yet Los Catrachos are probably feeling like anything but winners. French Guiana is the worst team in the group, and Honduras was nonetheless subjected to several immediate threats on goal, with only slight advantages in shots and possession.
The Gold Cup group stage is very forgiving, however, with the top two teams advancing in each group and the third-place teams dropped into a ranking wherein only one team doesn’t reach the knockout stages due to tiebreakers. So a win over Canada in the final group stage match isn’t wholly necessary.
The Canadians were fortunate to escape with the draw against Costa Rica, which looked vulnerable early before finishing with a flurry of chances in the second half.
Canada went ahead thanks to another goal by 16-year-old star Alphonso Davies, who tracked down a ball played across the box by Scott Arfield and coolly slotted it home in the 26th minute:
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) July 12, 2017
Francisco Calvo drew Costa Rica drew level shortly before halftime by rising to meet a cross with a powerful header.
A pair of injuries soured the proceedings, including an ankle injury to Davies in the second half and an unspecified injury to Joel Campbell, one of the Ticos’ best players who was forced to the sidelines after only 24 minutes.
Costa Rica brought as close to an A-team to the tournament as any of the elite squads in the region, so with Mexico and the United States treating the Gold Cup as a way to get youngsters experience, Los Ticos might be considered favorites to win it for the first time.
The first step would be winning Group A, which seems like a near-certainty with French Guiana up next, especially if Malouda plays again.
More soccer coverage from FC Yahoo:
• Mexico dispatches El Salvador, even without its manager
• USMNT sputters on Gold Cup-opening draw with Panama
• Gold Cup preview: USA looks to unseat reigning champ El Tri