Hola México! – Young Reggae Boyz World Cup bound

February 24th, 2011

MONTEGO BAY, St James — It’s been a long time coming, but finally Jamaica have snapped a 10-year spell from a global football tournament. The nation’s Under-17 team did yesterday what had eluded all others since the Under-20 qualified for the Argentina World Cup back in 2001 — booked a place in their age-group World Cup set for Mexico this summer.

The feat follows that of their predecessors, who did so 12 years ago for the New Zealand edition of the Under-17 FIFA World Cup.

A brace from top striker Jason Wright secured the Jamaican dream as the stocky forward hit the target in the 13th and 46th minutes in a dominant and crowd-pleasing performance for a 2-1 quarter-final victory.

Honduras made a fight of the contest in the latter stages when substitute Bryan Rochez closed the gap in the 64th which sent a chill through the Montego Bay Sports Complex.

The win sealed the final qualifying spot of the two-week tournament after Canada did so in the earlier game, blanking Trinidad and Tobago 2-0.

In Tuesday’s quarter-finals, Panama shocked Costa Rica 1-0 in a Central American derby, while the mighty USA dug deep to fight off the challenge of El Salvador, 3-2.

Having secured their places in the global event, there is still work to be done as the top four teams will contest the semi-finals of the CONCACAF tournament, which will crown a champion.

Jamaica will test their mettle against USA, while Canada and Panama will battle tomorrow to see who advance to the final, which will bring the curtains down on a magical two weeks of football on Sunday.

In yesterday’s widely anticipated triumph against Honduras, the Young Reggae Boyz were in their element by possessing the ball through crisp passing, with the architect being captain Omar Holness, who led his troops with distinction in a rarified and electrifying atmosphere “never seen before” at this level.

Jamaica head coach Wendell Downswell was beside himself with joy at the accomplishment.

“I’m ecstatic for the youngsters because they have been away (in Brazil) for so long and all the sacrifice they have made,” he said.

Downswell, who was instrumental in the Under-20 team which qualified for the World Cup in 2001, said the team gave a markedly improved performance, though they slackened off the accelerator for periods of the second half.

“This is the best game they have played; what they need to do now is (consistently) play two good halves,” he told a post-game press conference.

Honduras coach Eugenio Umanzor said it “was a tough loss”, but he and his players had no regrets.

“I thought the players did well and fought back into the game,” he noted.

Though it was a superb team effort, the two critical goals by Wright are undoubtedly the highlight, but Paul Bogle High’s Alvas Powell gave yet again a performance worthy of note.

In the sixth minute, the home team came close to breaking the deadlock when Holness finished off a positive build-up, but his scooped effort from 20 yards skimmed the horizontal.

Eight minutes later, the breakthrough came when Wright was ideally positioned to blast into the roof of the net for his third of the tournament. For the goal, he did well in taking advantage of a hesitant Honduras defence after a long throw-in from the left.

Riding a crest of possession and subtle but incisive attacking forays, the Jamaicans threatened in the 20th when Holness launched powerfully from 22 yards after being fed by Andre Lewis, but Honduras’s custodian Roberto Lopez was up and executed a fine diving save.

The Boyz maintained their attacking industry when Lewis crossed beautifully from the right side to pick out Jevani Brown, whose downward header came dangerously close.

A minute later, Jamaica were again on the hunt for the insurance goal, but a runaway Brown could not beat Lopez with his speculative jab that was driven into the sprawled out frame of the ‘keeper.

In the first minute after the resumption, the dream was further nurtured when Wright, a student of Wolmer’s Boys’, struck with deadly venom inside the box when he turned home a ball from a left-sided cross.

That was his fourth of the tournament and the second of the match.

The Young Boyz were in no mood to sit back on their two-goal lead, and the hunt was on for more goals. In the 52nd, Brown, envious of his strike partner’s success, fancied his chance of getting on the scoresheet with a testy 20-yarder which again required goalkeeper Lopez to be at his best.

Holness, who was imperious in that centre of midfield role though he was later withdrawn, had a curling free-kick from 25 yards plucked out by an alert Lopez in the 60th.

But when it appeared Jamaica were on their way for a rout and a smooth passage into the World Cup, Honduras pulled a goal back when towering substitute Bryan Rochez rose majestically to head past Odean Clarke, who up to that point, had little work to do from a largely non-existent Honduras attack.

The Montego Bay Sports Complex fell silent with the deficit-reducing goal because the 5,000 or so partisan fans knew well there could be little room for errors from there on in.

And the opposing threat continued, especially after Carlos Valentin was introduced in the 55th minute. His fresh legs and ball trickery proved more than a handful for the Jamaican defenders.

Their quest to salvage their World Cup hopes at a desperate level, Honduras rattled nerves when Ramon Amador’s 25-yard free-kick troubled Clarke, who had to gather a ball that bubbled out of his grasp.

With the game slipping away, Honduras came forward in ominous numbers as they sought the death-defying goal, but a boot from nowhere and in the nick of time prevented a preying striker from poking home.

It was winding down the clock from then and Jamaica were well on their way to Mexico, and with the final whistle, it was a done deal.


JAMAICA — Odean Clarke, Oshane Jenkins, Kemo Wallace, Alvas Powell, Quante Smith, Romario Williams, Omar Holness (Patrick Palmer 82nd), Jason Wright, Andre Lewis, Jevani Brown (Romario Jones 72nd), Shawn-Claud Lawson (Cardell Benbow 66th).

Subs not used: Richard Trench, Junior Flemmings, Troy Moo Penn, Ramone Brown.

Booked: Jenkins (70th), Jones (90th)

HONDURAS — Roberto Lopez, Jeffri Flores, Eder Velasquez, Julio Moncada (72nd), David Caranaza, (Carlos Valentin 55th) Jose Barralaga, Arnaldo Alvarado, Ramon Amador, Carlos Andrade (Bryan Rochez 63rd), Joshua Neito, Jose Escalante.

Subs not used: Allan Torres, Kelvin Nunezs, Manuel Meija, Tony Cerrato

Booked: Amador (36th)

Referee: Enrico Wijngaarden (SUR)

Assistants: Egbert Paesch (ARU), Keytzell Corrales (NCA)

Fourth Official: Trevor Taylor (BRB)

Match Commissioner: David Sabir (BER)

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