A Look Back At Jamaica’s 1998 World Cup Campaign
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Jamaica failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, extending their drought to 20 years outside of the competition. The Reggae Boyz were dumped out of the CONCACAF fourth round of qualifying, failing to progress from a group containing Costa Rica, Panama and Haiti.
The team are a far cry away from the side that reached the tournament in 1998. None of the side that played during qualifying were operating in European leagues, instead plying their trade in the MLS and at home in the Jamaican National Premier League.
Their struggles against higher competition in the fourth round of CONCACAF qualifying resulted in their failure to reach the World Cup. Panama recorded two victories over Jamaica in the group stage before advancing from the fifth stage to the tournament, where they have the longest shot to triumph in the World Cup betting odds.
Jamaica were in a similar position to Panama when they qualified for the 1998 World Cup in France. The squad for the tournament was a complete contrast to their unit that attempted to qualify this time around. Manager Rene Simoes had seven players in his team that played in the Premier League, although the contingent qualified for playing for the nation via parents and grandparents rather than being born in the country themselves.
The Reggae Boyz were handed a tough draw in their group, facing off against Argentina, Croatia and Japan. Argentina and Croatia would make surges into the latter stages of the competition, while Japan finished bottom of the group. Jamaica left France with their heads held high, placing third in Group H, narrowly out of contention for the second round of the tournament.
The Stade Félix-Bollaert in Lens was the venue for Jamaica’s opener against Croatia. Mario Stanic put Croatia ahead in the 27th minute with the favourites dominating the first half, but Robbie Earle made history by scoring his nation’s first goal at the World Cup to equalise on the stroke of the interval. However, Robert Prosinecki restored the Blazers’ lead before Davor Suker, who won the Golden Shoe at the tournament, ended the contest with their third strike to secure the victory.
— Peter Coates (@golazoargentino) June 21, 2017
Simoes’ men then faced Argentina in the second group game in their toughest challenge. La Albiceleste boasted top quality in the form Ariel Ortega and Gabriel Batistuta, which proved to be too much for Jamaica to handle. Batistuta notched a hat-trick, while Ortega scored a brace in a crushing 5-0 victory at the Parc des Princes.
Jamaica and Japan faced off in the final round of matches in the group stage, although neither side could advance to the next stage of the competition. Theodore Whitmore scored either side of half-time to deliver the victory for the Reggae Boyz to avoid the wooden spoon, despite a late strike from Masashi Nakayama. It was a fine moment for the history of Jamaican football has not been surpassed since. The nation have a long way to go before they can challenge for a place at the World Cup again based on their performance in the last round of qualifying.
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