Saturday night, Martinique opened its Gold Cup with a 2-0 win over Nicaragua, and thanks to the 1-1 draw between the USA and Panama, the Caribbean island now, surprisingly, sits top of Group B.
Former Seattle Sounders forward Kevin Parsemain opened the scoring with a header from a corner on the 35th minute, and moments after his introduction in the second half, Steeven Langil went on an impressive solo run to secure the victory. He now has five goals in seven international appearances.
Martinique is an interesting team and should not be underestimated. First, don't be fooled by the tiny population of 385,551 (half the size of Nashville, Tennessee, where Martinique earned its three points), given the fact that its an overseas department of France, Martinique soccer is funded by the European nation and the French Football Federation so developing talent becomes much easier. In addition, seeing as its not a member of FIFA and not eligible to enter the World Cup, Les Matinino take the Gold Cup extremely seriously.
But the most important factor is how this squad is an experienced unit, filled with talent that plays or has played in multiple leagues across Europe. From Christophe Hérelle, who plays for French club Troyes (recently promoted to Ligue 1), to the aforementioned Langil, on loan at Waasland-Beveren from Polish champions Legia Warsaw, this squad has a lot of international know-how.
In addition, Saturday's lineup had many players from Martinique Division d'Honneur, the nation's top domestic league. Relatively unknown to many, this league is blessed with talent, slowly developing many players with the hope of getting picked up by European clubs.
Could this be the tournament of the underdog? Maybe, maybe not, but one thing is for sure, the time for undervaluing Caribbean opposition is over–and the U.S. would be wise not to overlook its second foe.