That '70s Show of Haiti

Haiti never reached the semifinal during the Gold Cup era. The last time that they were among the best four teams in CONCACAF was more than 40 years ago when they finished as the CONCACAF Championship runner-ups in 1977. Four years earlier, in 1973, Haiti won the CONCACAF Championship, and they are the only Caribbean team to win a continental title.

When Haiti would play against Mexico in the semifinals, it will be a throwback for these legendary times, when Haiti was the dominant team in CONCACAF.

Haiti’s journey to the 1973 CONCACAF Championship was not too long. The only thing they had to do is to defeat Puerto Rico twice, and they have done it easily. This tournament had an additional prize, except glory as of the continental champions, as the winners will also be the only CONCACAF team to play at the World Cup a year later.

Haiti began the tournament with two wins, against the Netherlands Antilles & Trinidad and Tobago. Meanwhile, the ultimate favorites from Mexico started badly with two draws against Guatemala and Honduras. This 2-point advantage will be decisive for the next games. When each team had two games in hand, Haiti faced Guatemala and won 2-1, increasing the gap from Mexico to 4 points. It means that Mexico had to defeat Trinidad and Tobago in order to stay in the race. In one of the sensational wins of the tournament ever, Trinidad and Tobago thrashed Mexico 4-0, and it was the end for El Tri.

Even though Mexico won the last match against Haiti 1-0, the Caribbean team won the CONCACAF Championship for the first time, and also became the first Caribbean team to play at the World Cup since Cuba in 1938. Haiti wasn’t supposed to be in the level of great teams like Italy and Argentina, but their debut match against Italy was remarkable. After a goalless first half, Haitian star Emmanuel Sanon, scored the first goal in the 46th minute. This lead lasted for 6 minutes until Gianni Rivera equaled the score, and Italy eventually won 3-1.

After that performance, the next CONCACAF Championship participation in 1977 was another chance for Haiti to show that they are the champions. In their opening match, Haiti was defeated 4-1 by Mexico, and that was an early end for their dreams. Haiti finished as the runner-ups in this tournament, but since then failed to get back to the high levels of the continent.

Maybe when they would face Mexico in the 2019 Gold Cup semifinals, Duckens Nazon and Wilde-Donald Guerrier will feel that they can do something that their national team hasn’t done for a while.