Sep 19, 2020 Sports
Miami, Florida – After making their Concacaf Gold Cup debut in 2019, Guyana are brimming with belief that they can reach the tournament for a second consecutive time.The Golden Jaguars are one of 12 teams who will be involved in next July’s Gold Cup Prelims in the United States in which three teams will emerge with a spot in the Group Stage.
Leading the way for Guyana will be veteran Midfielder (MF) Neil Danns, who believes his team can achieve a more successful 2021 Gold Cup by building momentum in the Prelims.
“I think with everything that’s been going on in the last couple of months, I don’t think you can be upset with any revisions of anything because we are in unprecedented times. There are going to be changes in everything. You just have to get on with it and take the positives. Just being there is a blessing in itself. It’s still within your own hands, so personally I have no problem with it,” said Danns about the revised Gold Cup Prelims format in an exclusive interview with Concacaf.com.
“I think for the teams that can qualify through that phase, it’s almost an advantage because you get to take some of the atmosphere in, plus you are also going to get some fitness work out of it in a competitive game. You go into the first game having already played a competitive match, so you’ll be raring to go,” added Danns.
The taste that Guyana got of Gold Cup action in 2019 has served as motivation to return to the 2021 tournament. “Making our tournament debut was great, so having a chance to get there again two times in a row is unbelievable. It shows the character and good work that is going on in Guyanese football and hopefully it continues. All of the boys are fully motivated,” said Danns.
The 37-year-old scored all three Guyana goals in the 2019 Gold Cup, including a brace in Guyana’s first ever Gold Cup match, a narrow 4-2 loss to Panama.“It was amazing to represent the country at a first ever major tournament and for me personally to score the first ever goal at a major tournament is an achievement that will live with me forever. I have my shirt framed and it will always hold a special place in my household, but for the team and for the country, it was a massive milestone and it shows the continuing progress of football in Guyana,” said Danns.
The England-born Danns qualifies to play for Guyana through his grandfather, and so it was his family and the future generations of Guyanese footballers that came to his mind when he scored that historic goal.
“It was almost overwhelming. I didn’t realize the sort of effect it would have on me until afterward when I was getting the messages of support and congratulations from people back home and from Guyana. I sat back after the tournament and looked back at some of the highlights and clips and I got a sense of the achievement. Hopefully, I have been a part of inspiring another generation, because for the next generation of kids in Guyana, that was the first time that they got to see their national players at a tournament on TV. If those goals made a couple Guyanese children go out and practice and want to aspire to that, then that alone is an amazing feeling for myself,” said Danns.
Guyana followed up their 2019 Gold Cup performance with a solid second-place finish in the 2019-20 Concacaf Nations League, including an impressive 1-1 draw at group winners Jamaica.
“It was a tough group and we had new management, so it was tricky at the beginning. But they did a fantastic job in the end and I can’t say enough good things about how the manager organized us. To be able to get to a playoff for a Gold Cup, considering we had Jamaica in the group, who were massive favorites to top the group, to get a result against them was unbelievable. I would say it’s a testament to how the football is going in Guyana. We’re not a team that is expected to turn up and nearly get there; we’re actually a team that people look at and think it’s a tough game,” said Danns.
In addition to the Gold Cup Prelims, Guyana will also be busy preparing for the First Round of Concacaf World Cup Qualifying for Qatar 2022. The Golden Jaguars have been drawn into Group F along with Trinidad and Tobago, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Puerto Rico and Bahamas. Danns sees no reason as to why Guyana cannot be the team to finish atop the table.
“We were happy with the group. We are quietly confident that we can have a go at qualifying through the group. I think three or four years ago, people would have said that it was Trinidad’s group for the taking, whereas now I think even the Trinidad team is thinking that it’s going to be tough, that Guyana are going to be there and going to be challenging. It’s a big game for them against us now. There’s no more winning 2-nil or 3-nil against Guyana. It’s a group in which we are confident we can shock a few people,” concluded Danns.
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