Jamaica answers with sexy football

June 14th, 2011

theodore Whitmore (L) has the Reggae Boyz bang in form

At the risk of making Ruud Gulit smile and LA Galaxy fans cringe, the best way to describe Jamaica’s 1-0 win over Honduras on Monday was a fine display of ‘sexy football’.

Jamaica was confident going forward and took the game to Honduras. The match was easily one of the most entertaining thus far in the 2011 Gold Cup, which has been watered down by some of the usual 5-0 scores when the ‘still not ready for the big stage’ teams meet the likes of Mexico or Costa Rica.

For its part, Honduras held strong defensively through stellar one-v-one defending from Osman Chávez and Víctor Bernárdez Even as Jamaica pushed forward – speedy playmaker Dane Richards was shut down by Chavez throughout the first half.

Honduras will feel unlucky to have conceded the way it did, with Ryan Johnson’s 36th-minute rifle of a shot hitting the crossbar and bouncing off goalkeeper Noel Valladares’ back and into the net.

But even given Honduras’ solid individual defending, the unit as a whole was forced to scramble on several occasions as Jamaica’s one and two touch passing broke down Honduras’ back line.

Entering the fixture, the question was whether or not winning the group might actually be a curse for Jamaica, which will as a result likely have a quarterfinal date with the United States, Group C’s probable (and shocking) second place finisher.

That no longer seems to be a question that the Reggae Boyz should ask with fear, but one that might bring grins to their faces. The confidence this team showed in defeating Honduras gives it momentum that would be tough to stop for the United States. Simply, Jamaica is playing with serious swagger.

A potential Jamaica-United States game could prove favorable for the Jamaicans. It would present the U.S. – a physical, nose to the ground team – with an energetic and highly technical opponent willing to dictate play. Sound familiar? It is the same formula that saw the U.S. women infamously lose to Mexico – another crafty, technical team – in Women’s World Cup qualifying back in October.

The Reggae Boyz and the Americans meeting in the quarterfinals is still too hypothetical to over exaggerate, but it looks likely to happen and would surely be one of the worst match-ups for the U.S. in the quarterfinals.

Not to be forgotten is Honduras, which played its part in making the game entertaining. Chances were few and far between in comparison to Jamaica, but Honduras was never out of this game. In the end, a solid defensive performance was let down by a very average attack, which surely has a lot to do with losing forward Carlos Costly to injury in just the 26th minute.

Elsewhere, Guatemala finally put the ball in the back of the net in a comfortable 4-0 win over Grenada. Guatemala had free rein throughout the match as Grenada’s low pressure allowed for time to serve long balls into Carlos Ruiz.

Within the opening 10 minutes Ruiz and Henry David López had two chances each and it took just 17 minutes for Guatemala to open the scoring.

Unfortunately for Guatemala, no team in the quarterfinals will be as poor as Grenada. Guatemala looked good on the evening, but it somehow managed to give up several good chances even to Grenada. In the knockout stage, Guatemala will be punished by better teams.

Chicago Fire midfielder Marco Pappa was lights out on the left side and easily Guatemala’s best player. He registered a goal and an assist but even that did not do justice to his playmaking abilities in the match.

Unlike Jamaica, which looks set for a deep tournament run, Guatemala will likely be one and done in the quarterfinals. But that is still an improvement from 2009, when the team did not even qualify for the Gold Cup.


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