HOWARD WALKER with the U-20 REGGAE BOYZ @ THE CONCACAF WORLD CUP PLAY-OFFS IN MEXICO
PUEBLA, Mexico — Jamaica Under-20 footballers having secured a spot into the quarter-final, turn their attention to beating Panama today in their Group C CONCACAF Championship top-of-the-table clash at the Estadio Cuauhtémoc, starting at 4:30 pm Jamaican time.
Both Jamaica and Panama are on three points after defeating Puerto Rico 4-1 and 4-0, respectively, in the three-team group and both will be aiming to secure top spot in order to play the second-placed team from Group D, which could likely be El Salvador, who eliminated Curacao 2-1.
Perennial powerhouse Mexico, who whipped Curacao 3-0, are expected to top Group D and will play the second-placed team from Group C for a spot in the FIFA World Cup set for Turkey between June 21-July 13.
For a smoother path on the onward journey, it would suit the Jamaicans to avoid Mexico, therefore they must beat Panama and top the group and place their fate in their own hands.
The four winners of each quarter-final match will advance to the World Cup and Jamaica head coach Luciano Gama expects the Boyz to get the job done.
"The team is ready, (apart from) just some little adjustments for tomorrow (today). We saw the game (Panama vs Puerto Rico) and we analysed the Panama team, so I think we are ready... with the head, physically, tactically, everything (is ready) to make a great game," said Gama.
In Thursday's match, Panama were leading Puerto Rico 1-0 until the 84th minute where they scored three goals in six minutes.
"The Panama team is not a team that is unbeatable... they play 4-4-2 very flat and it was not an easy game to beat Puerto Rico, we were there and we saw that," revealed Gama.
"But no problems... tomorrow (today) we have nothing to lose, we have qualified already. We are second, so we must try for the victory cause it is so important for us," he added.
According to Gama, the injury-free young Boyz are raring to go and there might not be any change to the starting team against Puerto Rico.
Left-back Kareem Manning is available following his suspension from the first game, but the coaching staff might have a headache as his replacement Zhelano Barnes had an outstanding game.
Captain Alvas Powell has recovered sufficiently from a knock and should partner Damion Lowe in the heart of the defence once again with Sean McFarlane at right back.
Andre Lewis, Omar Holness, Romario Jones, Paul Wilson, and Keneil Kirlew are the midfielders, with the powerful Cleon Pryce upfront. Kendon Anderson, who came off the bench and scored twice, is expected to once again be a super sub.
The purists will argue that if Jamaica are to reach the World Cup they must beat the best teams, but that's not necessarily so. If an easier passage to glory is there, it should be taken. The mission is clear.