Haiti will play a series of two games versus Nicaragua for the right to grab the last berth to the only major tournament for the next two years that either team is still eligible to reach. For the first match, Haiti is receiving the visiting Nicaraguans team at the Stade Sylvio Cator in Port-au-Prince tonight at 7:00 PM while the Central-Americans will return the favor on March 28.
The Grenadiers have faced Nicaragua on 7 recorded occasions dominating the lesser known Central-Americans with 4 victories and 3 ties. The Nicaraguans, also known in regional football as Nicas or Pinoleros, also carry the scar of a 10-0 defeat by the Grenadiers.
However, the Nicaraguans have taken this home-and-away playoff seriously as they are looking to reproduce the surprising feat of their Panamanian neighbors whose status changed from minnows to top contenders in the span of a few years. They have invested a great deal of time and energy preparing their national team for this clash. Their great run at the recent Copa Centroamerica is a strong indication that they are looking to upset their Caribbean-side neighbors.
Haiti, on the other hand, shows no sign of panic over the clear intention of the visitors. Besides a few training sessions, the Grenadiers will face their opponents without a single preparation game. The lack of respect is obvious. As of yesterday the team was still gathering its players.
Still, Haiti is the clear favorite to win the first encounter. Players like Derrick Etienne, Charles Herold, Duckens Nazon, Donald Guerrier, Kervens Belfort may be too much for the visitors to handle. However, a landslide victory for Haiti is less likely than an upset by Nicaragua. The Nicas have, indeed, done a good job lately keeping the score respectable versus stronger teams than Haiti like Honduras and Costa Rica. Their better preparation may make the difference if it comes to a dog-fight later tonight.