Adrian Frater, News Editor
Jamaica booked their place in the quarter-finals of the 2011 CONCACAF Under-17 championship yesterday afternoon, when they turned in a courageous performance to defeat Guatemala in their crucial Group C football game at the Montego Bay Sports Complex in Catherine Hall.
In a game in which Jamaica looked ordinary in the first half but sparkled and dominated the second half, they got their all-important goal from the boots of prolific striker, Jason Wright, during time added for stoppages in the first stanza.
"I am extremely satisfied ... today I saw some semblance of what I ultimately want from this team," said Jamaica's elated coach, Wendell Downswell. "We must commend the fans for the energy that came from the stands ... we just need to build on what we saw today."
The fact that Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago finished jointly on top the group standings with the identical record of four points each, three goals for and two against, meant the organisers had to draw lots to decide which of the two teams finished on top of the group.
Jamaica won the draw to top the group.
In Wednesday's quarter-finals Jamaica will play Honduras, while Trinidad & Tobago will play Canada. The winners of these games will qualify for this summer's FIFA Under-17 World Cup in Mexico.
Jamaica went close to scoring in the seventh minute when Wright got away inside the box but fumbled and lost possession to the advancing goalkeeper.
Midway the half, Guatemala got a fine break when Luiz Perez got away on the right side, but drove his shot across the face of the goal, with the Jamaica defenders struggling to get back into position.
Jamaica nearly scored in the 43rd minute when skipper Omar Holness fired wide from distance.
However, three minutes later, Alvas Powell split the Guatemala defence with a dazzling dribble and crossed to Wright, who fired the ball into the goal making the half-time score 1-0.
Guatemala started the second half looking very purposeful and almost scored when Gerardo Gordillo fired a powerful free kick which goalkeeper Odean Clarke handled well.
Afterwards, Jamaica took control. It was all excitement for the locals as skipper Holness, Jevani Brown and substitute Cordell Benbow wreaked havoc on the Guatemala defence. During their dominance, the Young Boyz squandered several chances to score.
In the day's opening game, Canada and Honduras played out a 0-0 draw which saw Canada topping their group on goal difference. In their previous games, Canada defeated Barbados 8-0, while Honduras had a 2-1 win against the Barbadians.
"I am proud of the way my boys played today, they did what we asked of them although the surface was difficult to play on," said Canada's coach, Sean Fleming. "It is kind of good that we won the group."