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Ranking the Gold Cup Quarterfinalists

Joe TanseyFeatured ColumnistJuly 16, 2013

Ranking the Gold Cup Quarterfinalists

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    And then there were eight.

    After nine days of group play in the CONCACAF Gold Cup, the eight quarterfinalists have been determined.

    With only three groups in the group stage, the top two teams from each group advanced to either Baltimore or Atlanta along with the top two third-place finishers.

    So which North or Central American nation is in the best form going into the knockout round?

    Find out by reading on as we rank the quarterfinalists from worst to first.

8. Cuba

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    After we finish getting our "Did any Cuban players defect yet?" jokes out of the way, it is time to analyze the performance of Walter Benitez's team.

    For those wondering, yes, the Cubans still have a full squad of 23, and they will be making the trip down to the Georgia Dome to play Panama on Saturday.

    Advancing to the semifinals will be an uphill battle for the Cubans, who are the only quarterfinal team sporting a negative goal differential. However, they are riding a bit of momentum after crushing Belize, 4-0, in their final Group C match on Tuesday.

7. El Salvador

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    From their perspective, El Salvador played in arguably the toughest of the three groups. Group B was probably the most evenly matched, and they survived by finishing in third place with four points.

    Those four points were enough to advance them to the final eight and earn them a trip to Baltimore for a matchup against the United States.

    While they may not have the talent to outmatch their opponent, La Selecta will have plenty of support behind them due to the high population of Salvadorian ex-pats in the Beltway area.

6. Trinidad and Tobago

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    What is the reward for Trinidad and Tobago after finishing second in Group B?

    Well, that would be a match against Mexico, who in any other year would be the flat-out favorite.

    However, Mexico are very susceptible to being upset this year, and the Soca Warriors must be fully aware of that fact.

    As for the talent on the pitch for Stephen Hart's team, they did defeat Group B winner Honduras in their last group match, but they will have to rely on Stoke City's Kenwyne Jones (pictured, in white) to put them past El Tri.

5. Honduras

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    Honduras did come out of Group B in first place, but they left the group stage with a sour taste in their mouths after losing 2-0 to Trinidad and Tobago.

    How that loss affects their confidence remains to be seen, but Los Catrachos cannot put their heads down and mope onto the pitch at M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday.

    In Baltimore, Honduras will be matched up against Costa Rica, Group C's second-place team. If they get past that match, they will have to face the United States.

    While their road to the final at Soldier Field is the toughest, that does not mean Honduras are incapable of advancing that far if they play their best soccer.

4. Mexico

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    And then there's the curious case of "Chepo" de la Torre and El Tri.

    Everyone in CONCACAF is waiting for Mexico to break out of their recent slump, but up to this point in the tournament, they have failed to do that.

    With the knockout stage upon them, El Tri will have a ton of pressure on their shoulders as they look to defend their title.

    Mexico's poor form cannot last forever, and with a trophy just three wins away, you still have to like their chances of at least making it to the final in Chicago.

3. Panama

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    Panama took advantage of their situation in Group A and advanced to Atlanta as group winners.

    After a surprise win over Mexico in their opening match, Los Canaleros took down Martinique before drawing with Canada to clinch the group title.

    As a team playing with plenty of confidence after winning the group, Panama could fly under the radar and into the final.

    However, beating Mexico twice in the same tournament is a tall task for any team, and that could be the downfall of the Panamanians.

2. Costa Rica

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    Costa Rica held their own in Group C, and they ended up in second place after their 1-0 loss to the United States on Tuesday night.

    The Ticos have a stingy defense that will frustrate any team they go against in the knockout round, and that is why they will hold a slight advantage over Honduras in the quarterfinals.

    Costa Rica will relish the opportunity to take on the United States in the semifinals on July 24, and that motivation alone should put them past Honduras and set up a great semifinal between the favorites and the up-and-comers in CONCACAF.

1. United States

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    The United States are the hottest team in CONCACAF at the moment, and their domination of Group C announced that they are the favorites to win the Gold Cup.

    With a target on their back, the Yanks will have to play at the highest level for every single minute of the three knockout matches that lead up to lifting the Gold Cup trophy in Chicago on July 28.

    As we all know by now, there is no easy match to be played in CONCACAF, and with a defense that can be shaky at times, Jurgen Klinsmann's side do have some vulnerabilities.

    Klinsmann's men will have to take the knockout round one match at a time, but for now, they are the clear favorites to win the Gold Cup.

     

    How would you rank the final eight teams left in the CONCACAF Gold Cup?

    Comment below or leave me a comment on Twitter, @JTansey90.

     

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