So here it is, our first taste of tournament football. The squad were ready, the preparations were good. I'm expecting us to find the group relatively easy and the games will start to ramp up after the group stage is over. So lets get into it.
Group Stage Match 1 - Haiti (N)
The tactic has been refined and proven across the friendlies so there was no need to change it at all.
We Dominated Haiti as expected and were 1-0 up after 16 minutes. Kasey Palmer scored a curling free kick from 25 yards. Kemar Roofe then doubled our lead, latching onto a perfect ball from Palmer.
Haiti stunned us to score just before the break to make it 2-1 at Half time.
The game petered out in the second half after changes were made and we were happy to see the game out. 2-1 at Full Time.
Group Stage Match 2 - Honduras (N)
Couple of changes from the first game. Johnson and D. Lowe replaced Palmer and Moore.
For the second game in a row all of the goals came in the first half and it can only be described as the Leon Bailey show. He grabbed a first half Hattrick for the second time since we took over.
Honduras just couldn't handle his pace and ability to beat his man and come inside off of the left wing.
Group Stage Match 3 - Panama (N)
We reverted back to the starting 11 from the first game with Johnson and D.Lowe coming back in.
Michail Antonio opened the scoring on 20 minutes when he headed in a pinpoint Bailey cross. He then doubled our lead with his second of the game Just before half time with a tap in at the back stick from another fantastic Bailey Cross. Half time 2-0.
Decordova-Reid and Pinnock finished off the scoring in the second half to end the group stages with a perfect 3-3 record.
Quarter Final Draw
Quarter Final - Canada (N)
"If it aint broke dont fix it" comes to mind with this squad as we again keep the same starting 11.
Canada, although relatively low in the World Rankings would be the toughest test so far. Their squad contained two very highly rated individuals in Alphonso Davies and Jonathan David.
Our first taste of knockout football and we needed to start well. Which is exactly what we did, Leon Bailey scored from the spot after being fouled in the 5th minute. Kemar Roofe doubled our lead in the 12th minute after volleying in a lovely deep cross from Mason Holgate.
As mentioned in the pre game build up, Jonathan David was a huge threat for Canada and he proved that in the 25th minute as he beat two before firing a thunderous low shot into the bottom corner.
Our two goal lead was restored thanks to Decordova-Reid as he tucked away a pinpoint low cross. 3-1 at Half Time.
Canada pushed to get back into the game and closed the gap to 1 goal through a tidy Scott Arfield finish. But we had enough quality to see out the game and progress to the Semi Finals. 3-2 at full time.
With the results of the Quarter Finals in we were drawn against U.S.A in the Semi Final.
Semi Final - U.S.A (N)
Two changes as Johnson and D. Lowe come in for Moore and Kelsey.
We faced U.S.A only once before in our short tenure, a friendly to test the squad at a higher level and they passed with flying colours beating them 2-0 on their own turf. We would need a similar performance to win again.
Just like the Quarter Final our start was impressive and Leon Bailey was on the scoresheet early again. He pounced on a loose pass between the centre backs, his first effort was then saved but he reacted quickest to tuck home the rebound. 1-0 and the perfect start.
We looked to closeout the half however were undone by a lovely cross from the left wing which was calmly headed home. 1-1 at Half Time.
The second half we really asserted our dominance and were the better team without getting the reward we deserved. We finally made our dominance pay, and it was actually from a rare U.S.A attack.
Leon bailey picked up a clearance from our defence well inside our half, he carried the ball towards the U.S.A box before beating his man and slotting it passed the 'keeper. 2-1 Jamaica in the 89th minute.
It wasn't 2-1 for long as amazingly we all but sealed the victory. We won the ball back from the U.S.A kick off. The ball was worked to Decordova-Reid who played a lovely through ball to Jamal Lowe, who had come on to replace Roofe. He took 1 touch and blasted it low into the bottom right corner from outside the box. 3-1 Jamaica and the final was beaconing.
We were made to sweat the last few minutes of added on time as U.S.A scored in the 95th minute but again we held on for a memorable victory.
As hosts, U.S.A were huge favourites for this semi final tie but The Reggae Boyz ignored those odds to stun everyone to make it to the final.
In the other Semi Final, Mexico had prevailed over Costa Rica. Mexico have been the only team to beat us since we took over, falling to a 1-0 defeat. Revenge was on our minds.
Final - Mexico (N)
92,000 fans were in attendance for the Final, the largest crowed to see this new era Reggae Boyz play.
The early stages were cagey with both teams feeling each other out without committing too many players forward.
It took a moment of quality to break the deadlock and to everyone's surprise it was produced by a player in a Jamaican shirt.
Decordova-Reid picked the ball up just inside the Mexico half looked up and found a sensational pass to release Kemar Roofe, he took one touch and blasted it passed the 'keeper. 24 minutes gone and 1-0 Jamaica.
Half time came without another major incident. We were 45 minutes from Gold Cup Glory.
The second half Mexico started at a furious pace, probably with the fury of their manager ringing in their ears, however what ever he said did not have the desired effect as it was us who stamped our authority on this tie in the 49th minute.
A long hopeful ball was played into the Mexican box, the clearance was poor as it fell to Decordova-Reid. Amazingly as we all shouted shoot he laid a square pass to a free Antonio who slotted the ball into the bottom corner. 2-0 Jamaica and we started to believe.
I encouraged the players to hold their positions and ensure we kept it as tight as possible and we saw out the remainder of the half without incident.
WE ARE GOLD CUP CHAMPIONS
For the first time in the Nations footballing history we are Gold Cup Champions.
A fantastic success and really puts us in a fantastic position for the up coming World Cup Qualifiers. More of that at a later date, but for now its time to celebrate the most unlikeliest of victories.
UP THE REGGAE BOYZ
If you have enjoyed this episode and want to fully catch up with our Journey so far you can go back to the start here - https://www.sadpanda333.co.uk/post/ep-1-joining-jamaica-dishing-out-passports
We also have a long term Wycombe Wanderers Journey on going as we attempt to take my beloved Wanderers from leafy Buckinghamshire to the top of the English Game. You can start all the way from beginning here -https://www.sadpanda333.co.uk/post/pre-game-launch-and-save-selection