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30.1.04 - The CONCACAF Men’s Under-23 Olympic Final Round Qualification, the first event on the Confederation’s calendar in 2004, begins next week in two venues in Guadalajara, Mexico.

Since 1992, when the age limit was changed to U-23 for the men’s football competition at Summer Games, CONCACAF has qualified two nations to three consecutive Olympics and this month two more will advance to Athens (Greece) 2004.

The CONCACAF Final Round tournament (from 2-12 February 2004) will feature two groups of four teams with Canada, Honduras, Panama and USA in Group A at the Estadio 3 de Marzo in Guadalajara, while Group B is composed of Costa Rica, Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago and the host Mexico at the Estadio Jalisco.

This is also the third consecutive U-23 Final Round tournament staged by CONCACAF in a single country, with the previous two held in Edmonton, Alberta Canada in 1996 (Won by Mexico) and Hershey, Pennsylvania USA (Won by Honduras) in 2000.

The eight-team event begins on Monday, 2 February 2004 and will have six consecutive first round doubleheaders (three each in Groups A and B) until Saturday, 7 February.

The semifinal matches will take place on Tuesday, 10 February at the Estadio Jalisco at 17:30 and 20:00 respectively.

Two days later (12 February) the tournament concludes at the Estadio Jalisco with the third-place game scheduled for 17:30, while the Final, is set for 20:00. The finalists will also claim the two CONCACAF berths for the 2004 Olympics in Athens.

Scouting the teams
Canada – Coached by Bruce Twamley, Canada has outscored their opponents 25-1 in their four previous 2004 CONCACAF U-23 qualifying matches (two games in each of the first and second rounds) … The maple leafs have not advanced into the Summer Games since Los Angeles (USA) 1984, where they reached the quarterfinals but fell 4:2 on penalty kicks to the eventual silver medal winners Brazil.

Costa Rica – One of three Central American teams at the 2004 Olympic Qualifying event, has Rodrigo Kenton in charge who has led the ticos to their first appearance in the CONCACAF Final Round Elimination since 1996 … Costa Rica has scored the most goals in 2004 qualification with 33 in four games … Ticos have made two previous appearances at the Olympic Games in 1980 (Moscow, USSR) and 1984 (Los Angeles, California USA).

Honduras – Will be looking to make it two in-a-row after qualifying for their first Olympic Games in 2000 … After a first round bye in Olympic qualifying, the catrachos had a difficult round two but were able to eliminate Haiti by a slim 3:2 aggregate margin. Edwin Pavón, who led Honduras during the CONCACAF Gold Cup last year, is at the helm.

Jamaica – One of the two qualifiers from the Caribbean are looking for their first-ever appearance at the Olympic Games … Jamaica reached the 2004 Final Round Qualification after eliminating Cuba and Guatemala in two consecutive rounds (first, second) series … Peter Cargill is in charge of the reggae boyz.

Mexico – After missing a berth to Sydney 2000, Mexico is aiming for its ninth trip (second-best in CONCACAF) to the Olympics in 2004 … The tricolor are guided by technical director Ricardo La Volpe, who last year led Mexico’s full squad to the CONCACAF Gold Cup … The tricolor also looks to extend their 16-game unbeaten streak in CONCACAF U-23 Qualification with their last defeat coming against the USA, 3:0 on 26 April 1992.

Panama – Under newly appointed technical director José Hernandez, Panama is one of three Central American nations in the Olympic Final Round … The canaleros advanced to Guadalajara after defeating Nicaragua in the first round and then eliminating St. Lucia in the second stage … Looking for their first-ever berth into the Summer Games in 2004.

Trinidad & Tobago – Searching for their first trip to the Olympics, Trinidad & Tobago is one of two qualifiers from the Caribbean region in the CONCACAF Final Round … The soca warriors eliminated the Bahamas in the opening round and then Grenada in the second to advance to Guadalajara … Stuart Charles Fevrier is at helm of Trinidad & Tobago.

USA – The CONCACAF nation with the most appearances in the Olympics (with 12) is looking for its sixth consecutive trip to the Summer Games since 1984 … With Glenn Myernick at the helm, the stars & stripes earned a first round bye during the 2004 CONCACAF Olympic qualifying and then eliminated St. Kitts & Nevis in the second round to earn a berth into the Final Round.
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