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Young Boyz take on Guatemala

published: Sunday, November 16, 2003
by www.jamaica-gleaner.com

IT WOULD be most fitting if Jamaica's Under-23 football team can match the coincidence of today's festivities with a victory at the National Stadium over Guatemala in their age group confrontation of the CONCACAF Olympic second round qualifiers at 4:00 p.m.

The game forms part of a double-header celebrating the anniversary of the Reggae Boyz' historic World Cup football qualification for the France '98 finals.

Strange enough, the Under-23 team is seeking to etch its name in history as the first Jamaican team to qualify for the Olympic football competition.

As a feature of this evening's showcase, the senior national team will parade its skills against El Salvador at 6:00p.m. before the game's boss, FIFA president Joseph 'Sepp' Blatter and one of his deputies, Austin 'Jack' Warner.

Both shared lead roles at functions earlier today honouring people who have contributed to Jamaica's football including past players, JFF presidents, referees, referees in World Cup and match officials, as well as breaking ground for a national training centre for the sport in Portmore.

Such milestones are significant however, the juvenile battle that will kick off the double bill at 'The Office' is the most important of the day's activities.

It is the first of a two-way showdown between these nations, that will decide one of the six remaining qualifiers for the ultimate play-off for next year's Olympics.

Due to the fact that it is their home game, the Jamaicans feel a need to win.

"We really want to win this leg," Jamaica's technical director, Carl Brown, told The Gleaner.

FIRST LEG MATCH

"We're not certain what we're going to encounter in Guatemala therefore we want to play in the conditions we know best and do as best as we can. We are prepared to try and win it from this first leg. We're looking at least at a two-goal cushion to take from this game," Brown said.

Jamaica utilised home advantage well against Cuba in the first round, beating them 1-0 here to make a 2-1 aggregate after holding their Caribbean neighbours Cuba to a 1-1 finish in their away tie.

Guatemala spanked eastern Caribbean team St. Lucia 6-1 away and 7-0 at home for a 13-1 aggregate while providing evidence of their destructive capabilities, to earn this match-up against Jamaica.

Brown said he is largely unaware of the opposing team's capabilities but expects them to be fit and technically sound.

"We don't have any tapes. When they played Suriname the senior team was in England and we were here playing our first game. We'd hoped they would have played a game since," Brown said.

"The technical staff has undergone some changes and we know a German works with them, so the physical condition would have been emphasised. We know technically they're good players so we're expecting a very tough game."

Of the 13 goals scored against St. Lucia, three apiece were scored by Julio Enrique and Fredy Thompson.

Desmond Breakenridge in Cuba and late substitute Roland Dean were first round scorers for a Jamaican team with a number of players that have senior international experience.

Chief among them are midfielders Omar Daley, Fabian Dawkins and Keith Kelly, who came off the bench with Dean, to win the last game against Cuba, as well as sweeper Shavar Thomas.

The technical director says "These are the players who have to step up to the fore".

Dawkins said the squad was prepared for the challenge, adding that the players had the will to succeed.

"It's very important for us to win and not allow the Guatemalans to score also because if they score, in the case of a tie, it counts as two goals, so we really want to win here then go over there and show them how much we can fight," said Dawkins.

"The desire for each an every one of the players is to win, the vibes in the camp are right ... everybody is just ready for the game, both mentally and physically," the Village United scoring ace added.

The return leg takes place in Guatemala next Sunday, November 19 following which the winner will advance to an eight-team final round qualifying tournament that is set to take place in Guadalajara, Mexico, from February 2-12 next year.

Jamaica (starting team): Allien Whittaker, Christopher Harvey, Bradley Graham, Shavar Thomas, Garfield Reid, Desmond Breakenridge, Damian Williams, Omar Daley, Luton Shelton, Khari Stephenson, Tyrone Sawyers.

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Shelton's double puts Ja on top

published: Monday, November 17, 2003
By Daraine Luton
Freelance Writer, www.jamaica-gleaner.com

SIX YEARS ago, the Reggae Boyz shared two points with Mexico in a goalless stalemate at the National Stadium. The point earned by the Boyz gave them a historic berth as they became the first English-speaking Caribbean country to qualify for the World Cup.


Yesterday - the anniversary of that historic achievement - saw the national Under-23s aiding their cause for a place in history by turning back Central American side Guatemala 2-0 at 'The Office'.

Both goals came from Luton Shelton, who netted in the 29th and 71st minutes, setting Jamaica, which have never qualified for the Olympic Games, a good platform from which to mount an attack when they play Wednesday in the return leg.

The winner on aggregate will advance to an eight-team final round to be played from February 2-12 next year in Guadalajara, Mexico. The teams will be split evenly into two groups with the leading team on points in each zone progressing to the summer Olympics in Athens, Greece.

The speedy Shelton collected a pass from the right flank and headed goalwards, leaving two defenders for dead in the process. With a flatfooted goalie at his mercy, Shelton sent the sprinkling of supporters at the stadium into a frenzy by lobbing him for the first goal.

That goal dented the visitors, who nonetheless went in search of a goal that never came.

GUATEMALANS NOT EMBARRASSED

While they were by no means embarrassed by the Jamaicans, Guatemala may blame the language barrier as the cause of them not understanding that the local Boyz came prepared for a burial. In fact, they were warned by the sound system operator after Shelton scored, through the lyrics of DJ Tiger's Yuh Dead Now, which echoed across the ground while the ball was being plucked from their net.

Shelton took it as an invitation to bang up Paulo Motta's net, cracking a shot which could have had the goalie in problem was it not for Nestor Quinonez who charged down his attempt. Shelton then returned in the 33rd minute to control a ball from deep in midfield then let fly only to see Motta palming away his effort.

On the stroke of the half, the former Wolmer's 'baller, who plies his trade with Wray and Nephew National Premier League club Harbour View, finished disappointingly after leaving behind three defenders as he kicked the ball into the side netting when the goalie came out to block the angle.

The second half saw Shelton benefiting from the injection of Keith Kelly, who crafted the play which led to him scoring. The latter, from the middle of the park, provided Garfield Reid with an aerial ball which he controlled and squared for Shelton, who climbed above Edwin Gonzalez to head past Motta for his second goal.

When the lethal finisher was substituted for Roland Dean, many though the Tivoli player would be the one to keep the fire burning along with Kelly and the rather dull Omar Daley. The excitement came not from Dean, but Jamal Campbell-Royce of Charlton Athletic who replaced Daley.

Campbell-Royce, who is short in stature, demonstrated to his Guatemalan opponents that he was a big man, using deft touches to mesmerise the defence, leaving them in most instances kicking at air after being beaten.

Coach Peter Cargill, though happy with the win, is already looking forward to a showdown in Guatemala.

"We are now set for a very tough encounter in Guatemala," Cargill said.

"We will be looking at a number of things but above all we will be going over there to play our very same football."

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'Not time to celebrate yet'

published: Tuesday, November 18, 2003
By Paul-Andre Walker
Staff Reporter, www.jamaica-gleaner.com

Guatemalan defender Nestor Martinez (left) shields the ball from Jamaica's Khari Stephenson in Sunday's first-leg CONCACAF Olympic qualifying game at the National Stadium. Jamaica won 2-0. - Norman Grindley

JAMAICA'S UNDER-23 squad left here yesterday for Guatemala fully intent on keeping the two-goal advantage they secured in their first leg CONCACAF Under-23 Olympic qualifier at the National Stadium on Sunday.

"It's going to be a tough game because of the altitude, but I'd be happy with a 1/2-nil advantage and we have two (goals) so we intend to keep them," said Peter Cargill, the team's coach.

Striker Luton Shelton scored both goals for the Jamaicans who are looking to qualify for the next stage of the qualifiers in Guada-lajara, Mexico, next year.

GOOD POSITION

Cargill warned though that the good position they now hold is no guarantee for a place in the next round.

"It's not a time to celebrate yet. We have two goals going into the second-leg and we have to keep them," he said.

The Jamaicans have been forced to make two changes to the squad which won Sunday's opener as overseas-based Bradley Thomas and Jamal Campbell-Royce are unavailable.

Thomas is out through an accumulation of yellow cards and Campbell-Royce, who plays for English Premiership team Charl-ton Athletic, has business obligations.

Their places in the squad will be taken by Arnett Gardens defender Alex Thomas and Waterhouse midfielder Weston Forrest.

Campbell-Royce's inclusion will certainly be missed because, while he hasn't enjoyed much playing time thus far, his performance in Sunday's first leg shows him to be a quality player who has the ability to change the nature of a game.

With almost every touch that he made last Sunday he produced scoring opportunities for others.

These changes do not affect the shape of the team slated to take on the Guatemalans with both changes being straight defender for defender and midfielder for midfielder swaps.

STARTING LINE-UP

However, many football pundits are questioning the rationale for the starting line-up that appears to be the standard for the U-23 team. Khari Stephenson's second half substitution, for instance, was met with massive crowd approval on Sunday and the general consensus is one of befuddlement as to his consistent inclusion in the starting 11.

When asked about the starting line-up, Cargill had this to say:

"I always say that my better players are the 18 in the squad. Unfortunately only 11 of them can start and the rest of them will come on. We have lost Bradley Thomas because he got another yellow card and so we have to find a replacement in young Alex Thomas but I think we'll be okay."

If Jamaica makes it past Guatemala they go on to play in the round of the final eight and will find themselves in Group B. That round is to be played from February 2-12. The other teams that will compete in that four-team group will come from the winner of play-offs between Trinidad and Grenada, Costa Rica and Guyana, and Mexico who have been awarded a bye as hosts.