Jamaica faced the daunting task of getting even the minimum one point against host Mexico at Azteca Stadium in Mexico City on Wednesday night, Feb. 6, in its first game of the final round of CONCACAF qualifying for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. Mexico breezed through the semifinal round undefeated and had players who were part of its first Olympic Gold win in defeating Brazil last summer. Jamaica, on the other hand, was recently dethroned as Caribbean Champion, a title it held the past two years, after a very dismal performance in the tournament. Compounding Jamaica’s plight was its current seven-game losing streak in Mexico. But as the old adage goes, every game is different – and this one was.
The Reggae Boyz put on a gutsy and defensively disciplined display in Mexico get a most valuable point from a goalless draw.
The result yielded what could turn out to be the most important point since Jamaica drew against the U. S. in Washington DC in 1997 to qualify for the country’s first World Cup appearance in 1998.
Jamaica’s poor showing in the Caribbean Championship and missing out on the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup demanded changes, so head coach Theodore Whitmore plucked six new faces from among English teams, including Garath McCleary and Jobi McAnuff of Reading, Theo Robinson and Marvin Nosworthy, formerly of Sunderland.
The revamped Reggae Boyz not only held their own in the awesome Azteca Stadium, but with better composure in front of the goal, McAnuff could have given Jamaica a 1-0 lead in the eighth minute. In the 30th minute, it took Mexican goalkeeper Jose de Jesus Corona’s spectacular save off midfielder Rudolph Austin’s close range shot to prevent Jamaica from scoring again.
Ryan Johnson (Portland Timbers, MLS), in the 67th minute, was in a one-versus-one situation with Corona and shot straight at the Mexican goalkeeper. In spite of Mexico’s dominant ball possession, the Reggae Boyz created the better chances.
Jamaican goalkeeper Donovan Rickets was at the heart of the visitors’ gutsy performance and clearly was the man of the match.