PUEBLA, Mexico — One down, two to go.
Even though it has not been said aloud, subconsciously the countdown has already started when Jamaica's Under-20 Reggae Boyz placed themselves in the auspicious position that puts them two games away from possible qualification to the FIFA Youth World Cup later this year.
Their impressive opening 4-1 win over Puerto Rico in their Group C encounter on Tuesday night at the Estadio Cuauhtemoc, has fuelled hopes of fulfilling the possibilities, but there's a wind of caution in the air.
Head coach Luciano Gama warns that his players need to remain focused on the job at hand in their quest for World Cup qualification.
"Every game is really important for us... it's what we discuss with them and we made the first step and we have another two to do it now," said the Brazilian.
"So heads and feet on the ground and we gonna wait until tomorrow (Panama vs Puerto Rico) to see what's gonna happen and see what kind of game and result we will have Saturday," he added.
Jamaica, Panama and Puerto Rico are battling for two spots to the quarter-final stage and Jamaica, with this victory, all but secured one of the two spots from their group.
In Tuesday evening's dominant performance by the young Boyz, substitute Kendon Anderson netted twice in the 70th and 81st minutes to put the icing on the cake of earlier strikes by Omar Holness (ninth) and Damian Lowe (62nd).
Jamaica are top of the three-team group with three points ahead of the pointless Puerto Rico and Panama, who are yet to play.
With Group C paired with Group D for the quarter-finals, the desired course would be to avoid 11-time CONCACAF champions and hosts Mexico. With Mexico expected to top Group D, Jamaica must do the same to ensure they avoid the powerhouse and hope to meet a perceived weaker opponent in the quarter-finals.
Mexico sounded their intention with a solid 3-0 whipping of Curacao in Tuesday's late kick-off.
"That will increase a lot our chances. Everything in World Cup is possible. In football everybody knows nothing is impossible, but if you can navigate that and go through and play the second team,
our chances are bigger," explained Gama.
"That's our objective (and) we believe that is really possible and we gonna work to do that," he added.
In the constructive rendition where the Boyz's transition play, off-the-ball movement and possession, shape retention and fluency were deserving of praise, their profligacy in front of goal prevented a possible goalfest.
Though it appeared a Sunday stroll for the Jamaicans, Gama noted that it was a tough game.
"Football is never easy. I think the team made the game become easy in the second half. We high pressed... and we are a team that creates a lot of chances and yesterday was very good," said Gama.
The head coach was a bit peeved by the manner in which Jamaica conceded in the 26th minute from a free-kick some 35 metres away.
"We can't concede goal like that at this level. Puerto Rico didn't deserve that goal from a set piece and we talked a lot about that. They stayed behind and waited and that's the only chance they got to score," he reiterated.
Teams: Jamaica -- (1) Rashaun Patterson, (16) Sean McFarlane, (5) Alvas Powell [(2) Shawn Lawes 79th], (17) Damion Lowe, (18) Zhelano Barnes, (8) Romario Jones, (11) Andre Lewis [(12) Andrew Allen 89th], (9) Omar Holmes, (19) Keneil Kirlew, (10) Paul Wilson, (14) Cleon Pryce [(7) Kendon Anderson 46th].
Subs not used: (13) Nico Campbell, (3) Rickardo Oldham, (4) Javaun Waugh, (21) Mark Brown, (15) Oshane Boothe
Booked: Alvas Powell (41st)
Puerto Rico -- (1) Matthew Sanchez, (3) Flecha Thomas, (5) Vazquez Thomas, (6) Michael Fernandez, (7) Alvaro Betancourt, (8) Emmanuel D Andrea, (9) Reid Strain [(14) Luis Betancur, 65th], (10) Joseph Marrero, (11) Deniz Bozkurt, (16) Gustavo Rivera [(2) Carlos Rosario 74th], 18-David Caban.
Subs not used: (13) Karlo Morell, (4) Emilio Cordero, (12) Jose Abrams, (15) Carlos Rivera, (17) Alex Oikkonen, (19) Juan Antonio Coca, (20) Alberto Montesino.
Booked: Caban (54th)
Referee: Hugo Cruz (Costa Rica)
Assistant Referees: Warner Castro (Costa Rica), Melvyn Cruz (Honduras)
Fourth Official: Raul Castro (Honduras)