Ryon Jones, Staff Reporter
CFU championship puts Young Boyz among top seeds for WC playoffs
Jamaica will be one of the top-seeded teams when the draw for the groupings in the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) Under-20 championships takes place on November 21, after topping the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) Under-20 Finals following a goalless draw with Cuba in their ultimate Group B encounter on Saturday night at Stadium East.
By virtue of ending Caribbean champions, Jamaica will be placed in pot one alongside Mexico, USA and Canada; pot two will comprise Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Panama and El Salvador; while pot three will feature Haiti, Cuba, Puerto Rico and Curaçao.
The young Reggae Boyz were reduced to 10 players in the 58th minute when Kareem Manning committed his second bookable offence and was ejected. The Boyz were, however, able to see off the challenge of the Cubans to finish as the top team in the tournament by virtue of a superior goal difference, after ending with seven points from three games, the same as Cuba and Group A winners Haiti.
Puerto Rico qualified for the final round after placing second in Group A behind Haiti with four points.
"It was important that we be the first one, because we know that if we finish ahead of the group, we run away from Mexico, USA and Canada," Jamaica's head coach, Luciano Gama, said. "But running away from them, we know that we are going to find very difficult opponents there, as we found today with Cuba."
Gama, who has been at the helm of the Under-20 team for the past two years, knows that improvements are needed if the country is to realise its dream of making it to a second Under-20 Youth World Cup, having qualified in 2001.
"We continue looking for players. Everybody knows that we have some difficulty with money in the federation, so it is not easy for us to keep them in camp," Gama said. "Every Jamaican can be assured that we are going to do what we can to bring in more players to try and improve the group because the base of the team is there."
In the opening game of Saturday's double-header, Antigua and Barbuda came from behind to defeat Suriname 3-1, thanks to second-half strikes from Calaun Martin (48th), Tevaughn Harriette (50th) and Elijah McDonald (58th).
Suriname had opened the scoring in the fifth minute when Viola Ziome Bodji scored from the penalty spot.
The win saw Antigua and Barbuda and Group A third-place team Curaçao finishing with identical statistics (three points, three goals scored, four goals conceded and a goal difference of -1). This resulted in a coin toss being used to determine which of the two advanced as the best overall third-place team. Curaçao won the toss.
The final round of qualifying will be staged in Puebla, Mexico, from February 18-March 2 next year. Twelve teams will do battle in that competition for places at the 2013 FIFA Under-20 Youth World Cup to be held in Turkey from June 21 to July 13 next year.