Haiti vs. Everybody: Halftime speech spurs another furious rally as Haiti makes history against Canada
September 10, 2019 | News | No Comments
For the third time in the Gold Cup, Haiti came from behind to get a victory. For the first time in history, they’re through to the semifinals
Haiti’s players left NRG Stadium in a jubilant mood Saturday night after scoring three second-half goals to top Canada 3-2 and move into the Gold Cup semifinals.
In addition to a ticket to the final four of the Concacaf tournament for the first time in history, one even acquired a souvenir, a snapback tossed from the crowd onto the field that he was still wearing as he exited. It read, “Haiti vs. Everybody.”
Plenty of cities and nations have used the same sort of motto, but it’s been true for Les Grenadiers during the tournament. They’ve taken on all comers and, despite falling behind in three of four matches in the tournament, they’ve come out on top.
“It feels amazing. I have to tell you, we’re a group of fighters,” Steeven Saba told Goal after the game. “Every time you get a win like this, you get more excited. You get momentum going. Coming down 2-0 at the half, just like we were losing in the group stage, it always feels amazing.”
Hait went into the break trailing by two goals after a first half Canada controlled. The Haitians fell asleep on the first goal, with Alphonso Davies quickly taking a free kick and finding Jonathan David all alone. The Gold Cup’s leading scorer made no mistake and smashed the opener past Haiti goalkeeper Jhony Placide. On the second, Scott Arfield put a pass in for Lucas Cavallini, who was one-on-one with Placide after being kept onside by the left back Alex Christian.
Surely something was said in the locker room at the break that inspired a Haiti team to come out and score three times in the second half, especially one good enough to inspire the winner – a goal from Wilde-Donald Guerrier from a gorgeous move started by Saba when he won back the ball in his own half and sent a rainbow toward Duckens Nazon. Nazon turned and got down the line, then he decided to see what his options were in the middle. It didn’t appear he had many choices, but he pulled a pass out of nowhere that found Guerrier. His first touch wasn’t a good one, but he stayed with it, popped the ball back in the air and finished past Milan Borjan.
Borjan had been beaten almost by his own man for the first goal, with a back pass from Marcus Godinho catching him by surprise and allowing Nazon to pick his pocket and start the rally. Herve Bazile had the second from the penalty spot.
Haiti coach Marc Collat claimed his team coolly, logically looked at the halftime margin and decided to change things.
“There was not a big speech at halftime, we just looked at the fact that we had goals that could’ve been avoided,” Collat said after the match through a translator. “Despite the fact that Canada was dominating, we had opportunities, we’d created opportunities. If we were more serious in the second half, we could be more difficult for them. We came back. That’s when Canada started to doubt.”
That wasn’t quite accurate, though. In each of the matches when Haiti was down, a veteran player has stood to rally his teammate and inspire them to chase the game in the second half and come away with the result. For this match, center back Andrew Jean-Baptiste stood.
“It takes one voice in the locker room to lift everyone up. First game was Nazon, second game was Herve, this game was me,” he said. “I’m all about positive mentality, and that’s of one of the things I’m enforcing – I’m like, ‘yo, levez la tête – lift your head – we’re not finished. We have 45 minutes to change the game and all it takes is just one goal and we can create history after that.’ Miraculously, that’s exactly what happened.”
Baptiste’s speech was so moving for the players, Saba didn’t dare imitate it, instead calling over the Sweden-based defender they call “Drew” to recreate the moment.
“I pointed out that this may be a few guys’ last Gold Cup and I said I’m going to go out there and give every single thing that I can possibly give and I want my brothers to follow with me,” Baptiste said. “We all do it together because our fitness coach put “Team” on the board.
“I just kept on reiterating that we have to do this together. If we’re going to lose this game, let’s lose this game giving every single little bit that we have. That’s exactly what these guys did. We clawed and fought for it.”
They did the same after trailing Bermuda at the half. They did the same after trailing Costa Rica at the half. Now Haiti is in to the Gold Cup semifinal for the first time, where they’ll wait for the winner of Mexico vs. Costa Rica, taking on all comers once again.
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