IF the Reggae Boyz want to win games then they had better start taking their opportunities.
That's the view of head coach Theodore Whitmore following his team's 0-2 loss to Costa Rica in their third-round CONCACAF World Cup Qualifier at the Estadio Nacional on Tuesday night, which has now condemned the Reggae Boyz to last place in the hexagonal, with
However, the leaders Panama are only on five points and, despite the setback, Whitmore believes there is still a far way to go, and he's convinced his charges can bounce back and stake a claim for one of the three automatic tickets to the Brazil 2014 World Cup Finals.
"I think it would have to be up front, especially in the first half," was the head coach's response to the area of sector of his team he was most disappointed with.
"At this stage we need to be scoring goals if we want to win games, and once we are not scoring goals... if you look at the Costa Ricans they made use of
their chances," he said, while noting that at the end of the day his team did not create enough opportunities, though the ones they created were pretty decent.
As was reported, the Panamanians, dissatisfied with FIFA's response to their appeal against the wintry conditions under which their team was forced to play against the United States in Colorado last Friday night, demonstrated their protest by turning their backs to the playing of the FIFA Anthem and the arrival of the FIFA Fair Play flag.
However, they respectfully stood at attention for the playing of both national anthems.
The formalities apart, the Reggae Boyz threatened early after the prompt 8:00 pm start and created the first real chance after only three minutes, when Luton Shelton stole possession of the ball midway the 'Los Ticos's' half and ran at the defence before relaying a pass to strike partner Jermaine Beckford, whose weak angled shot was gleefully accepted by goalkeeper Keylor Navas.
Then just before the half-time interval, Jamaica had a glorious chance to draw level with perhaps their most fluent passing move of the whole night. Goalkeeping captain Donovan Ricketts picked up a loose ball just outside his area on the right. He relayed a pass to Jermaine Taylor, who picked out right back Lloyd Doyley. The Watford defender played the ball inside to Rodolph Austin at the centre circle, and his first time pass to Garath McCleary on the right flank just inside Costa Rica's half was squeezed diagonal into the centre of the pitch for Beckford.
As the Huddersfield frontman attempted to race for goal, the ball fell kindly to Shelton, who accelerated between the two central defenders inside the penalty area, but instead of shooting at the worried Navas, he took on the recovering Christian Gamboa and, after turning the right back, he could not beat the advancing Navas. That was a decent chance missed.
In an open game, where the hosts were desperate for maximum points, Joel Campbell's intended cross from the right flank sparked concerns in the Jamaican camp as Adrian Mariappa sliced his clearance behind for a corner.
And, as the early action continued, Rodolph Austin tested the palms of Navas with a thunderous 30-yard free kick, all inside the first 10 minutes of play.
However, on minute 22 the Reggae Boyz paid the price for lax defending from an innocuous free kick from their left side of the final third. Ariel Rodriquez lobbed a gentle floater to the far post, where striker Alvaro Saborio was given the luxury of controlling with his right foot unattended, before laying off the ball for central defender Michael Umana, who had ventured forward for the set piece. He never needed a second invitation to slot home from inside the six-yard box.
Whitmore was far from impressed with the manner in which his team defended that set piece.
"I am very disappointed, but this is football, and once you are playing against opponents, especially with this quality, they'll turn half chances into chances," was his response.
Whitmore, while admitting that the result was "disappointing", thought the game could have changed had Shelton taken that chance approaching the break.
"I think the result was very disappointing, and we lost the lead in the first half. The second half we came out and played, but I think going into the half-time break we could have equalised, and that would have changed the whole picture of the game, but we have to remain focused because we have seven games to go and we have to start picking up points now, and turning these one point into three points," he said.
Though the Boyz connected more with their passes in the second half, Costa Rica created a few openings as the game became more open. Another set piece similar to the one of the 22nd minute was not well defended by the Boyz, and Campbell flashed a left-footed volley wide of Ricketts's goal frame, during a period when the Real Betis winger tormented the Jamaican defence.
On another occasion he shot just wide, and moments later his grounded pass rolled invitingly across the face of Ricketts' goal mouth, as Saborio tried in vain to get the final touch on it.
In-between substitute Jermaine Johnson, who will be suspended for the next game after receiving his second yellow card caution in this final phase, unleashed a testing pile driver, which Navas could only parry wide, but the Boyz failed to do much with the rebound, until the wind was knocked from the Boyz's sails in the 82nd minute when substitute Diego Calvo teased his way past Taylor on the right side of the penalty area, cut back and around Doyley before firing into the far side of the goal to make the points safe for the hosts.
Whitmore is now looking ahead.
"The good thing for us now is that our next game is in June, and we are supposed to have the Boyz for a quite some time where we can do some work and try to get the team together. We still have a far way to go, because if you look at the points table we don't have any run-away leaders, so we need to remain calm, focused and try to get the job done."