The road to Brazil 2014 begins with a stepping stone.
On June 8, the USA kicks off 2014 World Cup qualifying by taking on twin island-nation Antigua and Barbuda in Tampa, Florida. The phrase “CONCACAF minnows” is thrown around a lot in US Soccer circles. No team better illustrates the meaning of this phrase than Antigua. As you work your way down through international tournaments, from “prestigious” to “pitiful”, one thing remains constant: Antigua ain’t playing. The World Cup? They’ve never qualified. The CONCACAF Gold Cup? Never qualified. The Caribbean Cup? Typically don’t qualify. To be fair, they have qualified for the 2012 Caribbean Cup. To be even more fair, they’re the host nation, so that doesn’t really say much.
Now, Antigua may not be an international powerhouse (like, ahem, the USA), but that doesn’t mean they aren’t capable of winning. Antigua enters this third round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying after finishing first in their second-round group, with a 5-0-1 record, and a ridiculous +23 goal differential. However, this may end up hurting, rather than helping, Antigua against the USA. Part of the reason they finished with such a high goal differential was their 10-0 rout of the US Virgin Islands – which happens to be an American territory. Why does that matter? Well, let’s just say Jermaine Jones doesn’t always take kindly to people who mess with America.
A few last random factoids before moving on to my standard breakdown. To start: most of Antigua’s players ply their trade with Antigua Barbuda FC, in American soccer’s third division (USL Pro), though a handful play in England. Most of Antigua doesn’t care about their national team, since the unbearable “sport” of cricket is immensely popular there. Finally, and perhaps reflecting the previous factoid, the Antiguan national team’s logo appears to be two deer humping a basketball with (American) football laces stitched on it. I’m speechless.
Here’s the breakdown:
Statistics sez: There have been no previous matches between USA and “The Benna Boys”. What, never heard of Antigua’s national team being called “The Benna Boys”? Don’t worry, nobody has. Nobody even knew Antigua had a national team. I didn’t know until I wrote that last sentence. Anyways, even without prior historical results, I think it’s a pretty safe bet that Antigua will leave their first encounter with the USA wishing it had never happened.
What I’m eating: Antigua’s national dish is “fungie“, which is essentially fried cornmeal, similar to fried polenta. Sounds tasty. But America takes the elegant simplicity of fried carbohydrate to a whole new level that Antigua can’t even begin to compete with, with good ol’ Krispy Kreme donuts. Thus, look for me on Friday to be stuffing my face with donuts like the USMNT will be stuffing Antigua’s net full of goals.
What I’m drinking: Back in college, I decided to spend a semester studying abroad on the Caribbean island nation of Barbados. I don’t remember much about the experience, but I do remember two things. One, I remember that I met my lovely fiancee there (thank you, Barbados!). Two, Barbados (like many Caribbean nations) makes a fantastic rum, or at least rum that tastes fantastic by the third drink – Mount Gay rum. Antigua has their own rum, called “English Harbour” – clearly a jab at America, using the pretentious and stupid English spelling of the word “harbor”. While I usually opt for an American version of opponents’ beverages, the slogan of Barbados’ Mount Gay rum is “the rum that invented rum” – a slogan that oozes superiority. Thus, for one game only, I’ll be abandoning my traditions and returning to my Bajan roots, enjoying a rum punch made with Barbados’ finest while simultaneously enjoying the USA making Antigua look downright silly.
What I’m singing: “Allen Stanford”, sung to the tune of “Yankee Doodle”.
A bit of background first. Back in the 1980’s, an American businessman named Allen Stanford moved to Antigua. He started a bank there, offering investors returns that consistently exceeded the market rate. People in Antigua loved him – so much, in fact, that he was knighted by the Governor-General of Antigua in 2006. Unfortunately, it turns out “Sir Allen” as actually running a $8 billion ponzi scheme, rather than a real bank. Oops. Antigua revoked his knighthood in 2010, but it was too late to prevent me from laughing at the whole story.
After a few rum punches, you may hear me sing this song inspired by this historical tidbit:
Allen Stanford was a Yank who moved off to Antigua
Started up a bank, too bad it was a Ponzi scheme
Yes, we’ve screwed Antigua once
Tonight, we’ll do you one worse
Make you wish we’d never met, like we were Allen Stanford
What to say to the Antigua and Barbuda fan when, God forbid, they score: “I genuinely did not think that would happen.”
Until next time…go USA!