Cuba scares rivals as PanAmerican Championship gets underway

It has seemed like a foregone conclusion that Argentina and Brazil would take two of the three slots in the qualifying for the 2011 Men's World Championship. But the struggle for the remaining slot seemed more open. The home team, Chile, seemed to be in the running, and the Dominican Republic with some ex-Cuban reinforcements seemed like an obvious threat. Greenland might be strong enough and Canada might be on its way up again. But the real 'dark horse', like so many times before has been Cuba. The issue here has often been that it has been diificult to predict how strong a team Cuba might be able to mobilize on any given occasion.

Judging from the results on the first day of the event, the answer seems to be that Cuba has brought a team that is young, but athletic and talented enough to be seen as a favorite for the third qualifying slot. After starting out by taking a 10-0 lead, they went on to crush the Dominican Republic by the score of 39-15. However, the opponents were weaker than expected, so the real test may not come until the Cubans confront Brazil on Thursday. Brazil beat Greenland with 29-23 in the other match in the group. In the other group, Argentina lived up to the expectations by easily defeating Uruguay with the score 32-14. Here the home team Chile gave a hint that they want to be a serious candidate in the qualifying, after beating Canada convincingly, 36-25.

It is difficult to see that Cuba will be stopped by Greenland or Chile by Uruguay in the Wednesday matches, so this should mean that, as so often before, the semifinals on Friday will be the key match-ups.