Thanks to Dane Richards, the Jamaica Reggae Boyz qualified for the final round of CONCACAF qualifying for the 2014 FIFAWorld Cup in Brazil with a 4-1 defeat of Antigua/ Barbuda in Jamaica last Tuesday night. The Reggae Boyz got help from the USA, which beat Guatemala, 3-1, to win Group A with 13 points and force Guatemala into a second-place tie with Jamaica, both on 10 points. Jamaica’s plus-three goal difference, two better than Guatemala’s, made the difference. The win was Jamaica’s seventh straight at home in World Cup qualifying.
It was nervous time for Jamaica, which loss in Guatemala 2-1 the previous weekend and fell to third place on seven points while the USA and Guatemala sat atop the group with 10 points; coming home to host Antigua/Barbuda, the Reggae Boyz hoped to win by at least three goals, but it meant a Guatemala loss by at least two goals. A draw between the USA and Guatemala in Kansas City, Kansas on the same night meant that Jamaica’s World Cup hopes would be dashed.
After Demar Phillips and Nyron Nosworthy gave Jamaica a 2-0 halftime lead off corner kicks and put it even on goal difference with Guatemala, which was losing 2-1 in the USA at the moment; it now seemed that the Reggae Boyz were well on their way to that goal difference edge to advance; Jamaica was even in goal difference with Guatemala, but Quinton Griffith’s 61st minute goal for the visitors made it only a 2-1 margin. Richards became the savior when advancing looked bleak again for Jamaica as the goal difference was only a plus-one.
Richards stepped up his game in the last 12 minutes of play, first by latching onto a Rodolph Austin cross to registered Jamaica’s third goal in the 78th minute; 10 minutes later, Richards registered the insurance goal that had the Jamaica National Stadium in an uproar. The news of the USA-Guatemala result had been known just before Jamaica’s game ended, but Richards’ goals gave Jamaica the needed plus-three goal difference. Jamaica is the only Caribbean team in the six-team final round of qualifying; it qualified for the World Cup in 1998.
In the USA-Guatemala contest in front of a sellout crowd of 16, 947, Clint Dempsey scored twice and Captain Carlos Bocanegra once to eliminate Guatemala. The visitors forged ahead through Carlos Ruiz’s fifth-minute goal after a lapse in the U. S. defense, but the Americans roared back with goals from Bocanegra (10th), off a Dempsey assist, and Dempsey (18th), from an Eddie Johnson cross, to forge ahead. Dempsey’s final tally, off a Michael Bradley pass, came in the 36th minute and ended Guatemala’s campaign. Bocanegra’s 14th international goal now makes him the all-time leading scorer among U.S. defenders.
In Group B, hosts Mexico (18 pts.) won its sixth straight game with a 2-0 win over El Salvador to win the group and advance to the final round; goals by Oribe Peralta and Javier Hernández paced Mexico. Hosts Costa Rica (10 pts.) registered a 7-0 victory over Guyana and finished second in the group to advance. Costa Rica got goal from Randall Brenes (2), Alvaro Saborio (2), Cristian Gamboa, Cristian Bolanos and Celso Borges. El Salvador (5 pts.) and Guyana (1 pt.) have been eliminated.
Honduras (11 pts.) pummeled Canada (10 pts.) into an 8-1 defeat to win Group C and end Canada’s qualifying campaign. Panama and Cuba played to a 1-1 tie, which sent Panama (11 pts.) into the final round as the second place team. Hosts Honduras got goals from Jerry Bengtson (3), Carlo Costly (3), and Mario Martinez (2) to win the group by goal difference. Cuba (1 pt.) was also eliminated.
Trinidad, French Guyana advance
Trinidad and Tobago (9 pts.) and surprising French Guyana (6 pts.) qualified from Group Five in the 2012 Digicel Caribbean Championship qualifying in St. Kitts and Nevis. The host and Anguilla were eliminated. Trinidad and Tobago won it three games, beating French Guyana (4-1), St. Kits and Nevis (1-0) and Anguilla (10-0). French Guyana topped Anguilla (4-1) and knocked off St. Kitts and Nevis (3-0) after losing to Trinidad and Tobago. St. Kitts/Nevis’ only win came against Anguilla (2-0).