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Gold Cup 2015 Profile: Haiti

The latest in our special Gold Cup preview takes a look at the team that everyone loves to love, Haiti

Haiti's Gold Cup hopes could rest on goalkeeper and captain Johnny Placide's performances
Haiti's Gold Cup hopes could rest on goalkeeper and captain Johnny Placide's performances
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

When you think of footballing heavyweights, the nation of Haiti is probably not the first to leap off the tip of your tongue. Yet it may surprise many to learn that this supposed minnow of the footballing world actually entered the Top 40 of the FIFA rankings just  two years ago - reaching a record high of 38 in the world in December 2013.

These heady heights positioned Haiti - which is the only French-speaking country at this year's Gold Cup - above the likes of Republic of Ireland, Turkey, Ukraine, Nigeria and Egypt - and the third highest ranked CONCACAF team behind only Mexico (then 15th) and USA (then 27th).

Since then Haiti's fortunes have dwindled somewhat and they now languish in a lowly 76th in the world rankings, making them the eighth highest ranked side in the competition.

Another surprise for many may be that Haiti have also competed in a World Cup, when the 'golden generation' of Haitian football made it to the 1974 World Cup in Germany. The nation's joy was short-lived at the competition as they were drawn in a group of death alongside Poland and footballing heavyweights Italy and Argentina. But their only World Cup appearance did see them shock the world when star striker Emmanuel Sanon gave them the lead against Italy, only to then succomb to a 4-1 defeat. They lost by the same scoreline to Argentina, and suffered a 7-0 defeat to Poland.

But what are the chances for the current crop of Haitian talent at this year's Gold Cup?

Manager: Marc Collat

Never heard of him? I'm sure you're not alone. But Callot, 65, is somewhat of a veteran of the managerial game, honing a decent enough career for himself in the lower reaches of the French game.

Callot enjoyed a 26-year playing career in France, beginning in 1960 with that well known footballing powerhouse Chatillon-sous-Bagneux, a suburb of Paris. Two spells spanning 11 years with Malakoff followed, then a few years with Racing Paris before ending his career with Versailles, Stade Francais and La-Celle-Saint-Cloud, who he then coached for three years.

Collat's non-playing career has been slightly more glamourous, progressing from a scout at Paris Saint-Germain and France Under-18 manager in the late 1980s, to two spells managing Ligue 1 side Stade Reims, running the highly-rated PSG youth system, coaching Qatar Under-19s and being national coach of Mauritius before taking control of Haiti in January 2014.

On taking the reigns of the Haiti national team, Collat commented:

"I do not know why these (previous) coaches failed. However, I am very familiar with the Haitian team and it is unacceptable that Haiti has all these good players and that collectively, the team has not been successful."

Key Man: Johnny Placide

Realistically, Haiti's only chance in this competition is if their goalkeeper and defence play absolute blinders to keep the opposition out. The man tasked with leading those defensive efforts is goalkeeper and captain, and brilliantly named, Johnny Placide - who sounds like some kind of Z-list superhero.

French-born Placide, 26, started his career with Le Havre in 2008, making 97 appearances for the club before moving to Ligue 1 side Reims in 2013, making 13 appearances to date. He represented the French Under-21 side at Le Toulon tournament in 2009, before opting to play for Haiti in 2011 and has since collected 16 caps.

You can check him out (and the funky music) in action against Chile and Alexis Sanchez last September here.

Assisting Placide in the defensive duties will be experienced centre-back Jean Jacques Pierre, who is the squads most capped player, with 62 caps, and has established Ligue 1 experience with Caen and Nantes. He was also named Haiti's fifth best player of all time.

A key threat for Haiti will be 22-year-old midfielder Jeff Louis who made 34 appearances for Belgian giants Standard Liege this season after a £2.1m move from Nantes, and hasa 71 rating on FIFA 15 so he must be decent. Louis was linked to a £3 million move to Celtic when our main man Neil Lennon was in charge a couple of years ago.

Also worth a mention is 23-year-old striker Kervens Belfort, who has scored an impressive 10 goals in 18 caps for Haiti, making him the player with the most goals for the national side in the current squad.

Squad Members:

In terms of household names, we're really scraping the bottom of the barrel. The best known name is probably former Chelsea youngster Emmanuel Sarki, who now plies his trade with Polish side Wisla Krakow.

The national side has also made a move to tap into players of Haitian descent, drafting in American defender Andrew John-Baptiste, who plays for New York Red Bull's second string, and a host of France-born players.

The squad boasts players at clubs all over the world, from France, Belgium and the USA to Greece, Cyprus, India, Argentina, Malaysia and Russia.

Haiti's full squad for the Gold Cup is:

Goalkeepers: Johnny Placide (Reims), Steward Ceus (Atlanta Silverbacks), Jaafson Origne (Don Bosco)

Defenders: Jean-Jacque Pierre (Angers), Judelin Aveska (Almagro), Mechack Jerome (Charlotte Independence), Frantz Bertin (Aiginiakos), Reginal Goreux (Rostov), Kim Jaggy (Aarau), Bitielo Jean Jacques (Kraze United), Kevin Lafrance (Miedz Legnica)

Midfielders: Jean Sony Alcenat (Steaua Bucharest), Jean Alexandre (Negeri Sembelan), Wilde Donald Guerrier (Wisla Krakow), James Marcelin (Fort Lauderdale Strikers), Pascal Millien (Jacksonville Armada), Jeff Louis (Standard Liege), Sony Nordé (Mohun Bagan), Sebastien Thuriere (Charleston Battery), Soni Mustivar (Sporting Kansas City)

Forwards: Jean-Eudes Maurice (Nea Salamis Famagusta), Kervens Belfort (Ethnikos Achna), Duckens Nazon (Laval)

Chances of Winning:

Haiti are likely to be lucky not to finish bottom of what looks like a tough group. They're up against the two finalists from the 2013 competition in the form of the mighty USA and Panama, as well as Honduras, who reached the last World Cup finals.