2014 GROUP STAGE PREVIEW: GROUP C
By Ben Tetelman
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Group C certainly does not lack star power. The Group will feature two previous tournament champions: NYC Poland, who won in 2010 and 2011, and NYC Haiti, who won in 2012. These tournament favorites are joined by some fierce competition. The top two finishers in Group C will earn spots in the quarterfinals.
NYC Poland, the greatest champions in the history of the Cosmos Copa, will enter the 2014 tournament with a bye into the group stage.
In the six-year history of the tournament, NYC Poland has made three finals appearances and brought home the Copa championship twice.
The Whites and Reds of NYC became the first team to win back-to-back championships, with victories over NYC Jamaica in 2010 and NYC Senegal in 2011.
However, the Polish renaissance was abruptly ended in 2012 when NYC Haiti defeated NYC Poland 2-1.
Now in 2014, sparks will fly as NYC Poland is set to face off against the same team that forbid them from capturing a three-peat.
A replay of the 2012 Championship match between NYC Poland and NYC Haiti will take place on July 20th during the second day of matches for the 2014 group stage.
With fresh legs and a clean slate, NYC Poland will hope to redeem themselves in 2014 and overthrow a powerful NYC Haiti team that feature one of the best players in the tournament in Fritzson Jean-Baptiste.
Coming off their second straight quarterfinals appearance, the Yanks of NYC will look to make it three in a row by grabbing the top spot in what is a strong Group C.
A win on home turf would be a great achievement for NYC USA and the growing soccer community in the United States.
With the recent conclusion of the FIFA World Cup, Americans have taken a different view of soccer. With heightened interest, and a fertile environment for growth, a Copa championship could further develop the game in a city where there is no shortage of talent.
NYC Haiti is looking to reach the final stage again in 2014, a feat they have not secured since 2012.
Easing past what wasn’t the strongest of groups in qualifying, NYC Haiti will have to up their quality if they want to advance into the quarterfinals.
In Group C, Les Grenadiers will be paired against rivals NYC Poland, who they defeated 2-1 in the 2012 finals. While the matchup will be a tough one for NYC Haiti, they will look to their star player, golden boot leader Fritzson Jean-Baptiste.
Born in Haiti, Jean-Baptiste started playing football at a high level when he was just nine years old. His career as a professional footballer began at 16 when he joined the Haitian club Aigle Noir Athletique. After success with the club, Jean-Baptiste was called up to the U-20 Haitian national team, where he would climb the ladder and eventually reach the senior level.
As a player, Jean-Baptiste has traveled the world and has competed on some of the biggest stages in world football.
When asked in an interview how he was introduced the Cosmos Copa, Jean-Baptiste credited NYC Haiti president Gregory Mervilus.
“I met Gregory and we spoke about the Copa and it sounded very interesting to me,” he said.
NYC Haiti are definitely glad to have Fritzon Jean-Baptiste on their roster. The team will face off against NYC Serbia in its first game of the group stage this Saturday, July 19th.
When teams play against NYC Serbia, they are competing against two opponents. NYC Serbia have perhaps the most enthusiastic fans in the tournament thus far.
Each goal is celebrated with a roar of excitement from the stands. With great support from their fellow countrymen, NYC Serbia are a force to be reckoned with in the 2014 Cosmos Copa.
In qualifying, the team escaped a tight Group E by edging out NYC Peru 5-4 on goal differential.
Big goals from Sasa Dobrijevic and Dejan Tolmac helped propel NYC Serbia into the group stage, where they will play for the chance to make their first ever quarterfinals appearance.
NYC Serbia’s ability to capitalize on counter attacks has made them a nuisance for opponents. In a difficult group, the ability to finish chances may be the difference between an early exit and Copa history.