Audley Boyd, Assistant Editor - Sports
IN QUARTERS far and wide, they got the help they wanted. But the Reggae Boyz could not defend their own turf to settle the deal.
A home campaign that has gone horribly wrong saw Jamaica rescue a 1-1 draw with Costa Rica at the National Stadium last night and move closer to elimination from CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying competition.
Randall Brenes, a 68th-minute substitute, handed Costa Rica the lead at the 68th minute with the assistance of some real Jamaican generosity.
They had been getting that kind of support from early, with many Jamaicans staying home and Costa Rica's travelling fans outnumbering the locals in attendance at 'The Office'.
In injury time, however, local hero Jermaine 'Tuffy' Anderson scored to level the match.
"It wasn't easy," said Jamaica coach Winfried Schäfer. "Costa Rica are a very good team. At 1-0 down, I change team. The goalkeeper did well in the first half and not too well in the second half. We still have [a] chance. Next game is against US in US in a month's time. We thank 'Tuffy'."
The point lifted Jamaica's tally to four points. They are still bottom of the six-nation standings.
Last night's fixtures were the eighth for all the teams, three of which shall automatically qualify for next year's finals in Brazil. A fourth will play off with Oceania champions New Zealand in a home-and-away series to also gain a berth.
All the teams in the confederation play-offs competed last night. Ahead of the matches, Jamaica would have been hoping for a United States win over Mexico and a Honduran win over Panama.
The US closed out the bargain, beating Mexico 2-0 at Columbus Crew Stadium in Ohio to go to the top of the standings on 16 points. The draw lifted Costa Rica to 15. Both have now qualified for Brazil.
However, the Boyz couldn't close their deal, failing to win a game they had to, at home, which would have launched them squarely into the battle for the play-off spot as they would have had six points.
That would be two behind both Panama and Mexico.
With maximum six points still there for the taking, Jamaica possess a mathematical chance.
Last night, Jamaica's hopes got slimmer with Brenes' finish. Goalkeeper Richard McCallum and defender Adrian Mariappa were not on the same page for the goal conceded.
Westley Morgan hustled back wide and played a pass inside to the unmarked McCallum. The custodian played a one-time pass towards the other flank, to Mariappa, who seemed to expect the goalie to clear the ball instead of passing to him. Brenes advanced quicker to the ball, dribbled inside the penalty shot and hit a grounded shot to the near post. It hit McCallum's hand, went onto the inside of the near post and squeezed into the goal.
THE GOLDEN MOMENT
Jamaica's goal was made by a raking diagonal pass by Taylor from the left flank. Anderson broke free from the defence and extended himself fully to meet the ball with the toe of his left boot and directed it across goalkeeper Patrick Pemberton to the unprotected side of goal.
The National Stadium erupted, the quarter-full venue letting out its loudest cheer for a man, who, with the nation, has been clamouring for his inclusion in the team.
Schäfer appeared to have been satisfying local sentiment by throwing him in when all other options failed - the last throw of the dice.
Anderson's rise from the bench to warm-up and replace Marlon King brought huge cheers, which got deafening when he scored.
"First, I have to give God thanks," Anderson said. "I know my job is to score goals. Coach told me to keep focused. He believes in me. I will keep calm and hope to get more chances for my country."
He added: "Despite the critics, everything is always left to me on the field. I just have to keep cool. I love to represent my country, club, any team I play on."
In four home matches, the Reggae Boyz have now failed to win, losing twice and drawing as many matches.
Both teams attacked at will, but the more skillful Costa Ricans were generally better and forced a number of saves from McCallum, whose huge mistake blurred some brilliant work.
The Jamaicans, to their credit, were still able to make a considerable number of advances well up the pitch. They made a great deal of bad passes when they were under absolutely no pressure, especially in the first half.
King had their best chance, hitting a shot off Shelton's corner kick at the fifth minute.
Shelton was replaced at the half by Jermaine Beckford.
It was the other Jermaine who provided the real fireworks though, right at the end.
1. United States 8 5 1 2 10 6 4 16
2. Costa Rica 8 4 3 1 11 5 6 15
3. Honduras 8 3 2 3 10 10 0 11
4. Panama 8 1 5 2 7 9 -2 8
5. Mexico 8 1 5 2 4 6 -2 8
6. Jamaica 8 0 4 4 3 9 -6 4