In a monumental shock, the Haitians earned top honours at the Caribbean Cup by edging out heavily favoured hosts Trinidad and Tobago 2-1 in the final and will head to the 2007 CONCACAF Gold Cup alongside the beaten finalists, Cuba and new boys Guadeloupe.
Haiti , FIFA World Cup™ participants back in 1974, confirmed their recent revival and regional status in the 2007 Caribbean Cup finals from 12-24 January in Marabella and Port of Spain by edging out T&T, who had just come off an impressive world finals debut last summer in Germany.
The Haitians - who played 12 games throughout the course of the preliminaries and finals of this the largest-ever Caribbean Cup - never looked in danger of running out of gas in the final, even though they were up against a T&T side that beat them 3-1 in the first round.
After six preliminary games Haiti ran through the group stages of the finals rarely missing a beat, finishing second to Trinidad in Group A and edging out Group B winners Guadeloupe, led by former France and Valencia standout Jocelyn Angloma, in the semis.
Playing in only their second final in the tournament's 18-year history, Haiti took the lead in the 22nd minute when Alexandre Boucicaut pounced on a rebound to slot home. The impressive Fucien Brunel then added a second ten minutes after the break to send the 18,000 fans at the Hasely Crawford Stadium into a state of stunned silence.
Although Nigel Daniel managed to get one back just before half-time it was too little too late for the hosts - diminished significantly due to overseas commitments in the squad. Regardless of personnel problems, the T&T men - led by tournament top scorer Gary Glasgow - had run through their first four games unbeaten, scoring 12 goals and conceding only three
The Haitian victory was every inch an upset of the formbook and will no doubt be celebrated long into the night in Port au Prince. In Tuesday's earlier consolation game, Cuba picked up third place honours with a 2-1 over Guadeloupe.
Cuba, Guadeloupe on song
Despite going out at the semi-final stage, islanders Cuba and Guadeloupe - a tiny French nation - did themselves duly proud by reaching this year's CONCACAF Gold Cup. It is a first for the archipelago of Guadeloupe not officially affiliated to FIFA, and technically part of France, hence their official currency being the euro.
After finishing their qualifying group on home soil ahead of favourites Martinique, it was clear that the ambitious French speakers were keen on qualifying for their first-ever CONCACAF regional championship - and the presence of former France star Angloma did not exactly hurt their cause.
Drawn into Group B in the finals in Port of Spain, the islanders never looked out of their depth or overwhelmed by the occasion. In fact, they finished top of the section above Cuba and a resurgent Guyana. With a 2-1 win over the Cubans in their opener, Angloma's influence could not be overstated as he scored the winner in the 87th minute.
Up next, against St Vincent and the Grenadines , a 1-0 win was enough to see them through the semi-finals and book passage to this summer's Gold Cup in the USA, making their final group loss to Guyana a little easier to swallow. In the semi-final against Haiti, though, they succombed to a 3-1 defeat.
Despite losing to Guadeloupe in their opener, Cuba also did themselves proud with a 3-0 win to 'Vincy Heat' thanks to a two-goal performance from last year's Cuban Player of the Year Lester More. A hard-fought 0-0 draw with Guyana saw them through to the semis on goal difference, where they were bested by T&T and a substantial 3-1 scoreline.
The four Caribbean hopefuls will join previous champions the United States, Canada and Mexico, and five teams from Central America - to be determined from 8 to 18 February in El Salvador - at the Gold Cup.
The 2007 CONCACAF Gold Cup, which will be played in six venues in the US, will be first time the competition will be contested solely by teams from North, Central America and the Caribbean.