Martinique took three colossal points in their quest to reach the knockout phase of the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup by overcoming, and outplaying, Canada on Sunday evening. Fabrice Reuperné scored a sensational last-gasp winner.
There was plenty of hype surrounding the fixture as it was the first of the tournament, being held in the US. Canada, with a very youthful squad, were tipped to comfortably beat Les Matinino but things never transpired the way they had envisaged.
Martinique have only ever reached the quarter-final stage of the Gold Cup once, and that was in 2002, ironically against Canada. It went to penalties and The Canucks reigned victorious. This time, though, it was the islanders that came out on top.
Straight from the start, it was Martinique who were doing all the pressing, running and harrying. They asserted themselves on the game and overwhelmed Canada. The attacking trio of Kevin Parsemain (captain), Frederic Piquionne and Yoann Arquin proved a very effective one as their movement was clever.
Parsemain, especially, was a constant threat. He has been performing consistently high for the national team for a while now and was the stand-out figure in the Caribbean Cup last year. He ran the show with his low centre of gravity and quick feet, at one point having a clear penalty shout turned down by the referee.
Manager Patrick Cavelan’s men had a series of golden opportunities in the first-half. The best of the bunch fell to central midfielder Steve Gustan – making his debut along with five others – who couldn’t convert from Arquin’s low cross.
At half-time the momentum was firmly with Martinique. You felt a goal was coming. Kevin Olimpa had very little to do inbetween the sticks whereas Canada’s goalkeeper Milan Borjan was regularly kept on his toes.
Martinique continued to be first to every ball and looked far the more hungry for the win. But, with each passing minute and no decisive goal, it seemed destined to end a draw. Until, that is, in the dying embers Reuperné, a substitute, found some space outside the box and struck the sweetest of strikes into the top right corner of the net.
An emphatic finish to deservedly hand the three points to Martinique. It was truly nothing more than what they warranted after such a bold, fearless performance. As expected, Reuperné and his teammates went to celebrate in delirious fashion whilst their Canadian counterparts sunk to their knees in absolute disbelief. They didn’t turn up and underestimated the opposition.
It was a brilliant team effort but there were a few notable performances that stood out: debutant and Sporting de Gijon defender Grégory Arnolin was composed and untroubled at the back (minus one second of panic when he nearly scored an own goal but Olimpa came to the rescue). 33-year-old Olivier Thomert, also making his first appearance in Blue & White stripes, looked to have a strong left foot and impressive engine. Daniel Herelle kept things tight in midfield, Piquionne worked hard and another debutant Gustan put himself about.
But the brightest spark had to be Parsemain. Surely it is only so long before he leaves his homeland with club RC Rivière-Pilote and finds a higher level side abroad. He definitely has the ability and confidence. Canada’s midfield struggled to keep tabs on him, as he drifted wide and then came infield. Cavelan appears to have gave him a free role, and it looks to be suiting him down to the ground.
It was interesting to see some reactions on social media after the match. A large majority of Canadian supporters were quick to point at Martinique’s status (not a FIFA recognised nation) and allegedly how poor they are but saw past the point: Canada were unable to play because the Caribbean side nullified them not just physically but tactically. Martinique were huge underdogs here but the win kick starts what should be an exciting tournament.
Martinique must now build on that fantastic start. Next up they face Panama – who beat Mexico in their opener and could be dark horses for the competition – on Thursday. Three days later, they will conclude against Mexico. Another two draws should do the job of securing progression to the knockout round. But it will be a mammoth task.
There are sure to have been a few amongst the one million inhabitants of the French department nursing celebratory hangovers after Sunday’s victory, but with two very important fixtures imminent the team must dust themselves down, gather their energy and focus to ensure this win turns out to be more than just three points.
@CaribbeanFtbl is a new contributor to Just Football, focussing on just that – Caribbean football. Follow them on Twitter or visit the site for much more coverage of the region.