Jamaica Hot Favourites to Breeze Through Olympic Test
U-23 Reggae Boyz to tackle Cuba in semi-final showdown.
Jamaica remain on course to play in the 2016 Rio Olympics after they brushed aside hosts Dominican Republic 4-0 last Sunday.
The Reggae Boyz followed up Wednesday’s 6-1 dismissal of St. Lucia with a workmanlike display at San Cristobal that was polished off with goals from Michael Seaton, Sean McFarlane, Romario Williams and Paul Wilson.
And Group Three winners Jamaica will tackle Group Two winners Cuba in their Caribbean Football Union (CFU) Olympic Qualifying semi-final knockout match on August 14 at the Stade Sylvio Cator in Haiti on August 14 (4pm ko local time).
With Cuba having recently hit a ‘purple patch’ they edged past Guyana 2-0, thrashed Aruba 11-1 then completed their demolition job with a tense 3-2 success over hosts Antigua & Barbuda at the Antigua Recreation Ground in last month’s ties.
Should the Boyz overcome Cuba they will face the winner of the other semi-final tie between Haiti and St. Vincent & the Grenadines on August 16 (6.30pm ko local time).
Haiti has the advantage of playing all their past group games on home soil, kicking off with a 2-0 success over Barbados, destroying the Cayman Islands 4-0 and polishing off St. Kitts & Nevis 3-1.
St. Vincent & the Grenadines topped their group following a 2-2 stalemate against hosts Puerto Rico then dismantling Trinidad & Tobago 5-3 in the same Estadio Juan Ramon Loubriel.
Jerome ‘Jerry’ Waite, Jamaica’s Men’s U23 assistant coach, said: “Jamaica have never qualified for an U23 tournament, so we’re looking forward to that game against Cuba to continue progress to the Olympic Games in Brazil.”
With the lively visitors pressing to break the deadlock, Kereen Manning and Jamar Loza were guilty of gilt-edged chances before Seaton headed home McFarlane’s cross on 35 minutes.
The strike from Seaton, who plies his trade in the Swedish top tier for Örebro SK, silenced the home fans who were expecting more from their team following their 3-0 thrashing of St. Lucia.
Yet the Dominican Republic sat back to soak up the pressure during the rest of the opening half inside the stunned stadium, without trying to level matters, and were only saved by the post when Seaton’s 41st-minute effort beat keeper Luis Polanco in a one-on-one scenario.
Defender McFarlane doubled Jamaica’s lead on 63 minutes, his glancing header from Manning’s telling corner beat Polanco at his near post.
Striker Romario Williams extended their lead eight minutes later, cooly converting Loza’s pass, which signalled the start for a large influx of home fans to desert the Estadio Panamericano.
And Portmore United’s industrious midfielder Paul Wilson completed the rout with four minutes remaining, his thunderous effort finding the top-right corner.
But the Boyz still pressed forward and American-born Haddad Khouri, a late substitute for Norwich City star Loza, should have buried what was the very last shot of the match.
Miguel Coley, Jamaica’s U23 head coach, explained: “The energy and the vibe of the team are very high and I hope that it continues. Our tactic is to keep possession of the ball and try to play as quickly as possible.”
And Waite enthused: “We have to be satisfied as the team scored 10 goals in two games, and that’s a big feat.
“Those players based overseas will head to their respective clubs and we’ll call them back as soon as possible. They are working pretty much hard and are a useful bunch with professionals like Michael Seaton and Jamar Loza.”
But Ariel Alvarez, the disheartened Dominican Republic coach, moaned: “It was a really hard game for both teams, and we had a really tough game to beat St. Lucia on Friday so had to recover 48 hours after.
“The Jamaicans were a little bit fresher and our guys were a little bit tired at the end, and that was a factor that brought us down.”
At the completion of the CFU final round, the top two teams will qualify for the CONCACAF stage of the Olympic Qualification that comprises hosts USA, North American Qualifiers Canada and Mexico and three nations from the Central American region.
The 2015 CONCACAF Men’s Olympic Championship – to be played in the USA from October 1-13 – acts as a Qualifier to the 2016 Summer Olympic Games football competition, with the top two teams advancing and the third-place team progressing to a play-off against a side from Conmebol (South American Confederation).
CONCACAF OLYMPIC FIXTURES (all at Stade Sylvio Cator, Haiti)
August 14: Cuba v Jamaica (4pm ko local time)
August 14: Haiti v St. Vincent & The Grenadines (6.30pm ko local time)
August 16: 3rd/4th Play-off (4pm ko local time)
August 16: Cuba or Jamaica v Haiti or St. Vincent & The Grenadines (6.30pm ko local time)
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