Curacao sealed its first-ever trip to the CONCACAF Gold Cup, when it rallied for a 4-2 win over host Puerto Rico on October 11, 2016, to finish atop the Group 3 table in the third round of the 2016/17 Scotiabank CFU Men’s Caribbean Cup.
Heading into June’s finals, the Curacaoans have posted an overall record of 5W-0D-1L. Since dropping a 1-0 decision to Barbados in the tournament opener, they have scored 21 goals in reeling off five straight wins.
The side contains some talented players ready to make a splash on the CONCACAF stage, including forward Gino Van Kessel, who shares the team lead in Caribbean Cup scoring with Felitciano Zschusschen on seven goals each. Van Kessel was the 2015/16 Slovakian first division’s top scorer, netting 17 goals for Trencin, before joining Czech Republic side Slavia Praha in July 2016.
Aston Villa defender Leandro Bacuna represented the Netherlands at the U19 (9 games/1 goal) and U21 (6 games/1 goal) levels in European competitions, while midfielder Gevaro Nepomuceno appeared in six games and scored one goal for Romania’s Petrolul Ploiesti in the qualifying phase of the 2014/15 UEFA Europa League.
Another to watch is defender Rhuendly “Cuco” Martina, who has UEFA Europa League experience with FC Twente and Southampton. He became first Curacao international to score in the English Premier League, when he opened Southampton’s goal account in the 19th minute of a 4-0 win over visiting Arsenal on December 26, 2015.
After serving as Patrick Kluivert’s assistant coach, Remko Bicentini was handed the Curacao managerial reins in September 2016. Kluivert — a former Netherlands, Barcelona and AC Milan star – coached the first two rounds of the Caribbean Cup.