The World Cup Dream of Cuban Soccer

The World Cup Dream of Cuban Soccer
Fecha de publicación: 
9 December 2023
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Qualifying for a World Cup has been the great dream of Cuban soccer for decades, since our only incursion into the greatest spectacle of this sport was by invitation, back in 1938.

We are at the gates of a new qualifying process towards the competition that will be co-organized by the United States, Mexico, and Canada in 2026, and although a few months ago there were great expectations to at least do a good job, the hopes faded a bit, after the latest presentations of our national team.

It will be the first tournament in the world with the participation of 48 teams, and that’s why the group of debuting countries must increase, among them some that, like Cuba, saw the World Cup dream as very distant.

In the specific case of our geographical area, there will be three direct places plus another two with a playoff option, which opens the chances, in addition to the fact that the three best Concacaf teams will not take part in the Qualifiers.

I have my opinion on the latter, and I don't know if it's good for us, because although we got rid of three powerful teams, that also means that there will be fewer tickets. If they were in the competition there could be six passports for the region instead of three, so the maths would remain more or less the same. What do they change? Right now we start with 0 possible points against those three teams, and if they were involved we could add. Of course, this is a utopia, but on a bad day a draw could be drawn from one of them and we would have one more point on our side here. At least that's how I see it, because by 2026 we won’t add anything against them.

The qualifying tournament will start in March 2024 and will be played in three rounds, although Cuba will not enter until the second round, since the first will only be played by the four lowest-placed teams in the world ranking, in direct round-trip playoffs to define the two that will advance to the next phase.

In the second round, which will start in June 2024 but whose draw will be soon, there will be 30 teams, divided into six groups of five teams each, which will play a single match against each of the rivals in their group, two as home teams and two as away teams, a system similar to the one we see in the League of Nations in terms of home and away. After these four matches, the two best placed in each section will advance to the third and final phase, of 12 teams distributed in three groups of four teams each. But we're not going to go that far.

Panama, Jamaica, Honduras, El Salvador, Haiti, Trinidad and Tobago, Curacao and Guatemala should be the strongest contenders for that final round, but first we may have to fight some of them, plus others that will make things complicated for us, especially if we continue with the mistakes from the last games.

With our best team we can compete, but we have already seen that it becomes very difficult to prevail if we have to move the lineup too much. Apparently there was some disagreement along the way, but it’s necessary to work things out to return to the hopeful route we had about a year ago. It would be the first step to really dream of the World Cup.

Translated by Amilkal Labañino / CubaSí Translation Staff

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