Praying for a football miracle
Jamaica's goalscorer Daniel Johnson (centre) tries to turn away from Mexico's Hector Moreno (left) as Carlos Rodriquez (right) looks on during the Concacaf World Cup qualifying game inside the National Stadium last night. Mexico won 2-1. (Photo: Naphtali Junior)

Mathematically , there is still a chance. But really and truly it would require a miracle for Jamaica's Reggae Boyz to qualify for the Fifa World Cup in Qatar later this year following their 1-2 loss to Mexico in the National Stadium Thursday night.

Most Jamaicans gave up hope when their side went down to 10 men with central defender Mr Damion Lowe ejected in the dying seconds of the first half for what was deemed a dangerous tackle.

Yet, hope surged to the surface when Mr Daniel Johnson scored against the run of play in the second half. But, in the end, it was expecting too much to expect the Jamaicans — devoid of crowd support in their home stadium and a man short — to hold off the Mexicans who played intense, high-level football throughout.

It came as no surprise when the visitors equalised and then found the winner late in the second half. Let's not kid ourselves, the Mexicans — quite apart from having a one-man advantage for the entire second half — were technically and tactically superior.

So now the Jamaicans, stuck on seven points from nine games, face Panama in Panama City on Sunday night. Hopefully they will be motivated, not only by the need to gain points, but also a strong desire for revenge after being humiliated 0-3 by the Panamanians in a shocking display at the National Stadium last September.

They will return from Panama to face Costa Rica at the National Stadium on Wednesday. Football fans may recall that the Jamaicans played to a creditable draw in San Jose a few days after the disastrous home defeat to Panama.

The clash with Costa Rica will close out the penultimate round of the Concacaf World Cup qualifiers.

In the final round, come March, the Reggae Boyz will be at home against Honduras and El Salvadior at National Stadium. In-between those two home games they will play away to Canada in what will almost certainly be difficult, frigid conditions.

As the situation stands, the top three teams in the Concacaf qualifiers are Canada on 19 points, USA 18, and Mexico 17 points. Those three are in pole position to be the automatic qualifiers for Qatar.

Panama on 14 points and Costa Rica on 12 points — barring something absolutely sensational from Jamaica or possibly El Salvador — are in a potential battle to the wire for fourth place, which would allow a last chance of qualifying by way of play-off with an aspirant from another confederation.

Jamaica enter Sunday's game against Panama on seven points, El Salvador are on six, with Honduras in last place on three points.

Whether the Jamaicans will be playing only for pride or will still retain hope of a miracle in the final round of qualifying games will obviously depend on what happens tonight and again next Wednesday.

Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) President Mr Michael Ricketts has been reported as saying that given the high cost of bringing Europe-based professionals across the Atlantic, his executive may well choose to do without them for the final phase — should Jamaica find itself with no chance of qualifying.

That makes sense. For now, Jamaicans wait, hope, and pray.

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