Although it's baseball that is traditionally no. 1 sport in Cuba, football has also gained tremendously in popularity in recent times, particularly since the men's national team has attracted attention with some good performances. Over the last decade the national team has been able to gain much useful experience against strong competitors, so that there is optimism on the island that at least the semi-final groups in the North, Middle and Caribbean Zone can be reached.
Unlike the neighbouring countries Cuba's football history has been long and action-packed. The greatest achievement so far, however, lies way back in time: at the 1938 WM in France the Cubans made it into the quarter-finals. Since that moment of magic, however, the Cubans have struggled in vain to qualify for the finals.
The qualifying rounds for the WM 2006 in Germany at least allowed the team from the largest Antilles island to demonstrate that they are on the right track. Despite in the end losing out to Costa Rica, a heavyweight in the CONCACAF Zone, having comfortably won against the Cayman Islands in the pre-qualifyer, we should be proud of what has been achieved.
The middle Americans, rated comfortably stronger, really had to get going in both matches – and in the end Cuba went out due to a single away goal less having been scored - without having lost any game in the entire qualification round.
At the latest CONCACAF Gold Cup Cuba was impressive. They held against an opponent as formidable as Mexico for long periods of the game, losing narrowly 1:2, and then earned a 2:2 draw against Panama.
These recent positive results topped up the confidence of the Caribbean national players, allowing them to tackle the World Cup 2010 in South Africa and 2014 Brasil with great optimism. Sadly the expectations for the pre-qualifiers were not upheld.