World Cup beckons
Jamaica’s Under-20 Boyz one win away from spot in Indonesia 2023
Duncan McKenzie (left) of Jamaica comes under pressure from Zahiem Green of Antigua & Barbuda during the 2022 Concacaf Under-20 Championship match at the Francisco Morazán Stadium in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, on June 22. Jamaica will face the Dominican Republic today with a spot for the 2023 Fifa Under-20 World Cup at stake. (Photo: Concacaf Media)

THE Jamaica Under-20 men’s footballers sit on the cusp of repeating a rare feat when they take on Dominican Republic in today’s Concacaf Championship quarter-final contest at the Olimpico Metropolitano stadium in San Pedro Sula, Honduras.

Kick-off is set for 6:00 pm Jamaica time.

A win against Dominican Republic would give the young Reggae Boyz one of four places from the region to the Fifa Under-20 World Cup in Indonesia next year, and the country’s second qualification to the global showpiece after the 2001 appearance.

Jamaica’s Head Coach Marcel Gayle said his team is enthused about the challenge.

“We are ready, and we are motivated to make the country proud…taking a next step [on] the journey to the World Cup,” he said on the eve of the match.

Jamaica’s Christopher Pearson (right) and Bryan Destin of Haiti challenge for the ball during the Concacaf Men’s Under-20 round-of-16 encounter in Honduras at the Olimpico Metropolitano Stadium in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, on Sunday, June 26, 2022. (Photos: Concacaf)

Gayle, who said all squad members are available for the contest, added: “We have a little knocks and bruises but nothing to stop the players.”

The Jamaicans progressed as the third-placed team behind Honduras and Costa Rica in the group stage of the championship before edging past nine-man Haiti 2-1 in the pulsating round-of-16 clash on Sunday.

Jahmari Clarke, who notched the opener against Haiti, has been Jamaica’s top contributor with three of their five goals. Tarick Ximines, a player with national senior team experience, scored the late winner against the resilient Haitians.

Dominican Republic took a different route to the quarter-finals, first reaching the Concacaf Championship after competing in qualifiers last November. Having advanced from that qualification tournament, they were among four teams — the others were Curacao, Nicaragua and Puerto Rico — to receive a bye to the Concacaf Championship’s round of 16.

Jahmari Clarke of Jamaica celebrates scoring against Antigua & Barbuda during the 2022 Concacaf Under-20 Championship match on June 22. (Photos: Concacaf)

In Sunday’s dramatic knock-out encounter with El Salvador, Dominican Republic twice got back from second-half deficits to win 5-4. Angel Montes De Oca scored two of their goals.

Gayle noted he is well aware of the threat they pose.

“We watched them (Dominican Republic) the other day against El Salvador. They are a spirited team and they have some components in their team who we have to try to stop and then we use our strengths against them,” the young Reggae Boyz coach explained.

In today’s second match at the venue, slated to start 9:00 pm, Guatemala are to meet 13-time regional Under-20 winners Mexico.

Jamaica’s men’s Under-20 football Head Coach Marcel Gayle (Photo: Observer file)

On Tuesday in the other quarter-final matches, back-to-back defending champions United States were set to battle Costa Rica and Panama were scheduled to face hosts Honduras.

While the semi-finalists at the Concacaf Championship gain automatic berths to the Under-20 World Cup, the finalists will also secure qualification to the 2024 Paris Summer Olympic Games.

— Sanjay Myers

Sanjay Myers

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