Through "CONCACAF Retro" you will revisit the region's most memorable people, events and crowning achievements.
Coin-flip determines titleCONCACAF Retro Gallery: Cuba, CAC Games, 1971
Cuba continued its success on the football pitch at the start of the 1970s, earning its first-ever Pan American Games bronze medal during the 1971 edition of the competition in Cali, Colombia.
The Leones del Caribe, who were coming off their second gold medal triumph at the Central American & Caribbean (CAC) Games in Panama a year earlier and started the Pan American Games with high hopes of gaining a medal after a lengthy preparation process.
"We had six-months of preparation leading up to the Pan American Games that included an Asian tour with stops in China, Korea DPR and Vietnam," said former defender Antonio Garces."We were mostly the same team that won the CAC Games (1970) and now we had a North Korean coach, Kim Yong Ha, who was also the national team technical director, and he spoke limited Spanish.
"He was very knowledgeable about the game, however.We learned a lot from him, which enabled us to perform well on the field."
On Aug.1, Cuba opened its 1971 Pan American Games schedule with a 1-0 Group B win over Trinidad & Tobago at the Estadio Santa Ana in Cartago.Jorge Rafael Masso scored the game-winning goal.
Two days later, at the same venue, goals by Masso and Francisco Fariñas led the Leones del Caribe to an impressive 2-0 victory over Mexico.
"That game was the most memorable one for me," added Garces, who is now the Vice-President of the Cuban Football Association (Asociacion de Fútbol de Cuba)."We already had a rivalry against them (Mexico), especially from the previous encounters in CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying, so we were used to their style of play.
"We took the experiences from the previous games and added the growth of knowledge from our team over the last year.We scored an important victory that had a bearing on our run, as we were confident of winning a medal at this tournament."
Cuba closed out first-round play and secured the top spot in Group B by holding Jamaica to a scoreless draw on Aug. 4, also in Cartago.
The Leones del Caribe progressed to the Final Round Group, where it once again faced the Soca Warriors from Trinidad.This time, Fariñas netted the game's only goal at Palmira's Estadio R. Escobar (Aug. 7).
The next day, Masso and Jose Verdecia scored one goal each, lifting Cuba to its first victory over the United States, 2-0, in front of a crowd of 50,000 spectators at Cali's Estadio Pascual Guerrero.
"It was a very emotional game for us as we knew we were playing one of the tournament favorites," said former U.S. player Hugo Salcedo."We (the U.S.) had a good team that was mentally strong, however, at that time, the Cuban team was considered a powerhouse in the CONCACAF region and I thought they would go on to win it all."
After losing back-to-back games to defending champion Argentina (1-0) and Colombia (2-1) on Aug. 9 and 11, respectively, the Leones del Caribe ended tournament play with a 1-0 win over Canada on Aug. 12.Luis Hernandez, who is the current Cuban Football Association president, scored the game-winning goal in the second-half.
Argentina captured its fourth gold medal by finishing first in the Final Group Standings (nine points), Cuba and Colombia finished level on points (six) for second place.Their final placement was determined by Pan American Games Organization (ODEPA) coin flip.As a result, the host took silver, while the Leones del Caribe settled for the bronze.
Afterwards, Cuba continued its string of successes in the decade, winning two more CAC Games gold medals (1974, 1978), qualifying for two Olympic Games (1976, 1980) and later obtaining the silver at the 1979 Pan American Games.
Cuba Roster - 1971 Pan American Games Roster
José Reinoso (GK)
José Luis Elejalde
Jorge Rafael Masso
Jose V. Ochoa
TD: Kim YONG HA
Group B - Cartago
01.08: Cuba - Trinidad & Tobago 1:0
03.08: Mexico - Cuba 0:2
04.08: Cuba - Jamaica 0:0
07.08: Cuba - Trinidad & Tobago 1:0Palmira
08.08: USA - Cuba 0:2Cali
09.08: Argentina - Cuba 1:0Cali
11.08: Colombia - Cuba 2:1Cali
12.08: Cuba - Canada 1:0Palmira
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