PUEBLA, Mexico — It's D-Day for Jamaica's Under-20 footballers.
Delight or doom it will be when they tackle Mexico for a spot in the FIFA Youth World Cup today at the Estadio Cuauhtémoc starting at 9:00 pm Jamaica time.
After a 12-year wait, and months of intense preparation, a nation holds its breath as these young footballers put everything on the line for just over 90 minutes to bring glory to their country.
Jamaica last qualified for the FIFA Under-20 World Cup in 2001; in Argentina, and this bunch has the Herculean task of defying the odds, as well as about 50,000 screaming Mexicans to reach a second World Cup at this level, set for Turkey between June 21-July 13.
Standing in their way is the host country Mexico, who has seven players in this squad that won the FIFA Under-17 World Cup in 2011, in captain Antonio Brisenio, who scored in the final against Uruguay, goalkeeper Richard Sanchez, Franciso Flores, Jorge Espericueta, Julio Gomez, Marco Bueno, and Carlos Fierro.
Jamaica also participated in that Under-17 World Cup and have six players from that squad in captain Alvas Powell, Omar Holness, Andre Lewis, Romario Jones, Zhelano Barnes, and goalkeeper Nico Campbell.
Jamaica opened their campaign with an impressive 4-1 mauling of Puerto Rico, but crashed 0-4 to Panama in their second game, while Mexico whipped both Curacao and El Salvador 3-0.
Mexico, who have won two of the last three Under-17 World Cups, must start favourite to advance to yet another World Cup.
But Jamaica cannot be written off, as they will be motivated by the fact that their senior team drew 0-0 with Mexico in the Estadio Azteca on February 6, when they ended a 24-match winning streak by the home team at that venue, a result not many expected.
Mexico have won 11 CONCACAF Under-20 titles and are the defending champion and have appeared in 12 FIFA Under-20 World Cups, the last of which they finished third behind Brazil and Portugal.
Brazilian head coach Luciano Gama has constantly told his charges that "nothing in football is impossible", but based on the Reggae Boyz's last performance, it will take something of a miracle if Jamaica are to upset the odds and qualify for only their second Under-20 World Cup.
"We will start a game with Mexico which will be very, very hard, because they have a good team, but we start 0-0 and nobody has that advantage," Gama said repeatedly.
However, the coach was hoping to enter this game on the back of a better result from the last game against Panama. "It is much better if you come from a good result or a good performance.
"But anyway the group has worked well as we prepare the team tactically and psychologically for this difficult game," he noted.
According to Gama, there will be some tactical and physical changes to the team based on what transpired against Panama.
"We gonna have some changes, because it is necessary we must adjust the team in how the Mexican team play. It is a strong team playing at home with 50,000 people, more or less, so we must have the best team to fight against Mexico. We have an intelligent group with players that can play in different positions," he explained.
Former Camperdown High star and Arnett Gardens midfielder Rickardo Oldham is being considered, while Sean McFarlane should make a return to right back.
The core of the starting team that played the last game should take the field once again.
It's not an impossible task, but one which will be very difficult to achieve under difficult conditions. But based on the vibes and the level of confidence these youngsters are showing, anything is possible, and Mexico could be in for a surprise.