MIAMI, Florida – A new day has dawned in Curacao Football with the hiring of legendary Dutch manager Guus Hiddink as Head Coach of the Curacao National Team.
Hiddink’s pedigree at the club and international level is beyond reproach, with previous stints at European giants PSV Eindhoven, Real Madrid and Chelsea, while guiding the likes of South Korea and his native Netherlands to semifinal finishes in the FIFA World Cup.
Now Hiddink takes the reins of an emerging Curacao team that is poised to make a deep run in Concacaf World Cup Qualifying for Qatar 2022 and will be strong competitors at the 2021 Concacaf Gold Cup.
The rapid rise of Curacao within Concacaf has been nothing short of remarkable.
From 1954-2010, Curacao was one of six islands that competed as the Netherlands Antilles, but its dissolution in 2010 gave way to the start of Curacao’s FIFA membership.
Curacao’s first venture came in Concacaf WCQ for Brazil 2014, and the island nation held their own by finishing in third-place in the Second Round with a 2W-1D-3L record.
A pivotal moment occurred in 2015 when former Netherlands star striker Patrick Kluivert was hired as Head Coach. Kluivert tapped into the number of players with Curacao lineage who play in Europe, including the likes of Cuco Martina and Leandro Bacuna, who boast a wealth of English Premier League experience, while adding other key pieces like GK Eloy Room, who currently plies his trade in MLS with Columbus Crew.
Under Kluivert, Curacao advanced past the first two round of Concacaf WCQ for Russia 2018 before being eliminated in the Third Round 2-0 on aggregate by El Salvador in September 2015.
Another significant change came in May 2016 when Remko Bicentini took over for Kluivert, and with Bicentini at the helm, Curacao made history by winning their first ever Caribbean Cup by defeating Jamaica in the Final, 2-1. That victory punched Curacao’s ticket to their first ever Concacaf Gold Cup, in 2017.
While Curacao finished the 2017 Gold Cup without a point or a goal, they certainly got the attention of everyone around the region for their play, as they fell by just a two-goal margin in defeats to El Salvador, Jamaica and Mexico.
Ready to take the next step, Curacao flexed their goal-scoring muscles in 2019-20 Concacaf Nations League Qualifying by registering a 3W-0D-1L record, while out-scoring opponents 22-2 on their way to a fourth-place finish and a second straight Gold Cup qualification.
More history was to come in the 2019 Gold Cup, as Curacao collected their first ever Gold Cup victory in a 1-0 final over Honduras, followed by a thrilling 1-1 draw with Jamaica that earned Curacao a place in the quarterfinals.
Their dream run ended with a tough 1-0 loss to the United States, but it was clearly apparent that Curacao had become a force within not just the Caribbean, but all of Concacaf.
That carried into the 2019-20 CNL, as Curacao went toe-to-toe with Costa Rica and Haiti in Group D of League A and completed the group in second place with a 1W-2D-1L record and qualification for the 2021 Gold Cup.
The strong success in recent years has pushed Curacao to its highest FIFA ranking ever (80th), making them one of the six top seeds in the First Round of Concacaf WCQ for Qatar 2022.
Drawn into Group C with Guatemala, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Cuba and British Virgin Islands, the ever-improving Caribbean side will now look to reach new heights under Hiddink and qualify for a first ever FIFA World Cup.