The Canadian Press
June 22, 2008
HAVANA — Cuba advanced to a politically charged semifinal group with the United States in qualifying for the 2010 World Cup, defeating Antigua and Barbuda 4-0 on Sunday night as Roberto Linares scored three goals.
Cuba won the home-and-home, total-goal series 8-3 and will be with the U.S., Guatemala and Trinidad and Tobago in Group One of the North and Central American and Caribbean region. Cuba hosts the Americans on Sept. 6 or 7 and plays the U.S. at Washington's RFK Stadium on Oct. 11.
The top two nations in the group advance to next year's regional finals. The top three teams in the finals qualify for the 2010 tournament in South Africa, and the No. 4 team plays the No. 5 nation from South America in a playoff for another berth.
The United States is 5-1-1 against the Cubans, but has never played in Cuba. The teams have not met in a World Cup qualifier since 1949, when they played twice in Mexico City. Following a 1-1 tie against the Cubans, the Americans won the final match 5-2 and advanced to the 1950 tournament, where they upset England.
While the United States is 21st in the world rankings, Cuba is 104th.
Before a crowd of about 2,000 fans in a country where soccer is not nearly as popular as baseball, Linares scored in the 10th minute, first-half injury time and the 53rd minute. Jeniel Marquez scored the final goal on a free kick in the 69th minute.