Audley Boyd, Assistant Editor - Sports
At the beginning of the Hexagonal when Jamaica ventured to tackle Mexico at The Azteca, the Reggae Boyz and their supporters would have been expecting the team to be pushing for a victory in tonight's final match against Honduras at The Office, one that would have launched them onwards to next year's FIFA World Cup Finals in Brazil.
For certain, they will be pushing for a victory against Honduras later, in the match set to kick off at 8:30 p.m. But instead of one in celebration of a dream realised, the Jamaicans are looking to save face in a campaign that went horribly wrong.
After nine matches, the team is yet to secure a win, and sits bottom of the six-nation standings with four points. That is after suffering its fifth defeat in the 10-match CONCACAF final round series, going down 2-0 to the United States at Sporting Park, Kansas City, on Friday.
On that same evening, Honduras toppled already-qualified Costa Rica 1-0 to secure one of three automatic qualifying spots for Brazil 2014.
Hondurans, in turn, have 14 points, and joined Costa Rica (15) and the United States (19) as teams certain to advance from the eliminations. While the top two have qualified straight to Brazil, Honduras need to guarantee themselves similar passage and must emerge from tonight's contest against Jamaica with at least one point.
That point would place them beyond the reach of Mexico, which currently hold fourth place on 11 points, and can also advance to 14 with a win in San Jose, Costa Rica.
While the Mexicans are favoured to gain fourth spot, they are under pressure from Panama, which occupy fifth on eight points. They, too, could advance to 11 with a win over the United States.
The fourth-place team is not guaranteed straight passage into next year's Finals, as they must beat Oceania champions New Zealand in a home and away play-off.
So the teams placed third to fifth have everything to play for, on a night when all fixtures have been timetabled to kick off at the same time.
Despite going nowhere, Jamaica will be looking for a victory to sell its national programme for the future.
"I think we can build a good team," Winfried Schäfer, whose contract as interim coach expires with tonight's match, observed after the US game.
The German coach is still learning the players and wants to have his contract extended. The Jamaica Football Federation (JFF), through its president, Captain Horace Burrell, expressed similar sentiments.
On Friday Schäfer tried a new format which saw his team outplaying the US for 70 minutes, until midfielder Je-Vaughn Watson was forced into substitution with an injury.
"It's the first time we've played 4-3-3 with three strikers, and we were better than the United States," Schäfer observed.
Given that analysis, it would not be surprising if the coach again starts Ryan Johnson, Darren Mattocks and Deshorn Brown, who was making his debut appearance.
The youthful Mattocks and Brown were quite courageous while taking on the defenders, while Johnson played his usual role of holding up the ball.
surprise five minutes
Theo Robinson came off the bench, while Jermaine Anderson, the local hero who had scored in the match prior against Costa Rica, was surprisingly handed five minutes.
Schäfer has proven to be a bit enigmatic with his selections at times, and one is never sure in which direction he is headed. Despite this, he also acknowledged a liking for the midfield trio of Watson, Austin and Joel (Jobi) McAnuff that started in the last game. It would not be surprising if they are teamed up again in this outfit where spots in the starting eleven have been dished out throughout the Hexagonal like places on a scrimmage pitch.
This association may yet remain unchanged, though in the context of future planning, space exists for the highly talented Romario Campbell, a quick thinker with crisp and precise passes and excellent ball-handling skills.
Another potentially dangerous candidate is the explosive, but under-utilised Jermaine Johnson.
Duwayne Kerr did a fairly good job last time, and will again contend with Richard McCallum and Gariece McPherson for the goalkeeping place, while Adrian Mariappa, Demar Phillips, Wesley Morgan and Lloyd Doyley played back four.
Defending, while not great, has been good for the Boyz, whose major problem lies at the other end of the pitch, where they have netted only three times in nine matches.