Theodore Whitmore’s Reggae Boyz began their CONCACAF Gold Cup with a 2-0 success over Suriname in Orlando’s Exploria Stadium last night (12 July), courtesy of goals from Shamar Nicholson and Bobby Decordova-Reid.
Belgium-based Nicholson bagged his eighth goal for Jamaica in the sixth minute, with the lively Decordova-Reid doubling their lead 20 minutes later.
The Group C opener, which had been threatened to be delayed because of thunderstorms, saw the Boyz initially play with panache thanks to the early breakthrough from Kingston’s speedy striker Nicholson.
The Royal Charleroi SC hot-shot got the ball rolling with Jamaica’s first from the edge of the area to the bottom left corner for his third Gold Cup career goal.
Returning skipper Andre Blake, back between the sticks for the first time since 2019, was equal to the one effort from Suriname on the quarter of the hour mark.
But the Boyz steadied themselves, and with the upper hand it was only a question of when they would double their lead. English-born Decordova-Reid unleashing a similar drive to Nicholson’s into the bottom left past outstretched ‘keeper Warner Hahm for only his second international strike.
Jamaica, one player short as English-based unattached midfielder Ravel Morrison’s previous misdemeanours have resulted in US Visa issues, have pedigree at the Gold Cup since springing up as the surprise package in 2015. Yet Suriname looked the most likely side to score in the wayward second half.
Having finished runner-up to Mexico at the 2015 regional showpiece tournament after losing 3-1, Jamaica returned to the final two years later under the leadership of Whitmore, but were edged out 2-1 by the United States.
Both of these rivals are fielding an under-strength squad, Mexico’s best youngsters are at the Toyko Olympics while the US are deliberately resting their stars ahead of September’s FIFA World Cup qualifiers.
Whitmore’s second Gold Cup saw high expectations yet substandard displays. The Boyz kicked off their 2019 shot at glory with a tame 3-2 triumph in Kingston but were then held by El Salvador and Curaçao, enough to reach the last 16 where a 1-0 win over Panama was enough to set up a showdown with bitter rivals the US in the semi-final. Jamaica’s insipid performance resulted in a 3-1 reversal.
With three semi-final berths on the bounce, Jamaica and their fans expect at least the last four this time in the United States. However, it should not be forgotten how Japan’s Olympic team swept aside the Boyz 4-0 last month, although Dutch-speaking Suriname arrived at the Gold Cup having lost by the same scoreline to in-form Canada.
Suriname, making their debut in the main group stages, proved to be no pushover and extremely resilient. Yet they failed to make any impact in the penalty area, and only had three shots on target in this end-to-end contest. Suriname have now chalked up just one victory over Jamaica once in six matches – stunning the Boyz 3-1 at the 1996 Caribbean Cup.
Jamaica, ranked 89 places higher than FIFA world no.136 Suriname, stuttered to a 2-1 victory when these teams met in the CONCACAF Nations League three years ago and this was the case once more.
With the Boyz sporting a brand new kit and the addition of assistant coaches Merron Gordon and Paul Hall, they made an explosive start with their early goal. After Fulham forward Decordova-Reid beautifully picked his spot it appeared to be over as a contest. The Boyz flagged after the turnaround, with the match no longer a spectacle but more of a tie of attrition and nerves.
As much as Suriname battled away, the defensive set up from head coach Whitmore stifled any sign of a goal threat. With the match drifting after the hour-mark, he made a surprise triple switch on 72 minutes to give Cory Burke, Oneil Fisher and Devon Williams a run-out yet Jamaica remained blunt upfront.
The Boyz were made to work hard to claim their invaluable Group C points, determined not to slip up like defending champions Mexico – who were held to a scoreless draw by Trinidad & Tobago at the weekend.
Next up for the Boyz is little-known Guadeloupe on Friday (16 July), who have returned to the Gold Cup group stage for the first time since 2011.
The French Caribbean islanders, who navigated their way through the preliminary rounds with a low-key 2-0 success over the Bahamas before stunning Guatemala 10-9 in a dramatic penalty shootout after an entertaining 1-1 stalemate, only participate in regional competitions as they are not a FIFA member.
Whitmore will need to adjust his tactics to get more out of his squad against Guadeloupe, whose head coach Jocelyn Angloma saw his side falter 3-1 to Costa Rica, if Jamaica are to continue their exceptional Gold Cup record.
JAMAICA: Blake – Powell (Fisher, 72mins), Moore, Hector (Williams, 72), Bell – Lowe, Johnson, Bailey (Flemmings, 83) – Turgott (Burke, 72), Decordova-Reid (Walker, 88), Nicholson. Subs: Barnes, Taylor, Lawrence, Mariappa, Magee, East
CONCACAF GOLD CUP SCHEDULE
(*Listed in ET)
10 July | Dallas Metropolitan Area (Group A)
El Salvador 2 Guatemala 0
Mexico 0 Trinidad & Tobago 0
11 July | Kansas City, Kansas (Group B)
Canada 4 Martinique 1
USA 1 Haiti 0
12 July | Orlando, Florida (Group C)
Jamaica 2 Suriname 0
Costa Rica 3 Guadeloupe 1
13 July | Houston, Texas (Group D)
Qatar v Panama, BBVA Stadium (6pm)
Honduras v Grenada, BBVA Stadium (9pm)
14 July | Dallas Metropolitan Area (Group A)
Trinidad & Tobago v El Salvador, Toyota Stadium, 7.30pm
Guatemala v Mexico, Cotton Bowl, 9.30pm
15 July | Kansas City, Kansas (Group B)
Haiti v Canada, Children’s Mercy Park (7.30pm)
Martinique v USA, Children’s Mercy Park (9.30pm)
16 July | Orlando, Florida (Group C)
Guadeloupe v Jamaica, Exploria Stadium (6.30pm)
Suriname v Costa Rica, Exploria Stadium (8.30pm)
17 July | Houston, Texas (Group D)
Grenada v Qatar, BBVA Stadium (7.30pm)
Panama v Honduras, BBVA Stadium (9.30pm)
18 July | Groups A & B
Martinique v Haiti, Toyota Stadium, Dallas (5pm)
USA v Canada, Children’s Mercy Park, Kansas (5pm)
Mexico v El Salvador, Cotton Bowl, Dallas (10pm)
Guatemala v Trinidad & Tobago, Toyota Stadium, Dallas (10pm)
20 July | Groups C & D
Costa Rica v Jamaica, Exploria Stadium, Florida (7pm)
Suriname v Guadeloupe, BBVA Stadium, Texas (7pm)
Panama v Grenada, Exploria Stadium, Florida (9pm)
Honduras v Qatar, BBVA Stadium, Texas (9pm)
24 July | Glendale, Arizona (quarter-finals)
QF1 1D v 2A, State Farm Stadium (7.30pm)
QF2 1A v 2D, State Farm Stadium (10pm)
25 July | Arlington, Texas (quarter-finals)
QF3 1C v 2B, AT&T Stadium (7pm)
QF4 1B v 2C, AT&T Stadium (9.30pm)
29 July | Texas (semi-finals)*
SF1 Winner QF1 (1D or 2A) v Winner QF4 (1B or 2C), Q2 Stadium, Austin (7.30pm)
SF2 Winner QF2 (1A or 2D) v Winner QF3 (1C or 2B), NRG Stadium, Houston (10pm)
1 August | Las Vegas, Nevada (Final)
Final Winner SF1 v Winner SF2, Allegiant Stadium
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