Jamaica looks to seize Gold Cup momentum

Written By Thomas Floyd
(Getty Images)

PHILADELPHIA — Winfried Schafer sat before the media, lifted the silver medal around his neck and swelled with pride.

"For me, this is not silver," the Jamaica coach said. "This is gold."

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Jamaica may have dropped a 3-1 result to Mexico on Sunday in the CONCACAF Gold Cup final, but the Reggae Boyz did not leave Lincoln Financial Field with their heads hanging low. As much as the defeat still stung, there was undeniable positivity as Jamaica's players addressed reporters postgame.

"We expected to do well, even though a lot of people didn't expect us to reach as far," forward Darren Mattocks told Goal USA . "I expected to win the tournament, to be honest. I know the team spirit and I know the quality of players."

Jamaica entered the tournament ranked 76th in the world — fifth-best in CONCACAF — but emerged as a rising force in the region after winning its group and ousting the United States with a semifinal upset.

Ultimately, a pair of triumphs over CONCACAF's elite was too much to ask. Andres Guardado's stunning volley gave Mexico a first-half advantage Sunday, and Jesus "Tecatito" Corona scored just after halftime to take the wind out of Jamaica's sails.

But Jamaica continued to battle after Oribe Peralta made it 3-0, with Mattocks coming off the bench to pull one back late. It was a fitting consolation for a team that has created optimism for fans back home on the Caribbean island of 2.72 million people.

"We've done so much for Jamaican football," forward Giles Barnes said. "It's a lot of emotion going on right now, but we should be proud as a nation."

Now Jamaica's attention turns to the third round of 2018 World Cup qualifying, in which the Reggae Boyz will face Nicaragua over two legs in September. Should Jamaica advance, it will face a tough semifinal group that also includes reigning World Cup quarterfinalist Costa Rica and Gold Cup semifinalist Panama.

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"When I saw the World Cup draw, I was very shocked," Mattocks said. "It couldn't get any harder than that, to be honest."

Yet there is confidence that this Jamaican team can advance to the final stage of qualifying for the second straight cycle, and potentially qualify for its first World Cup since 1998.

"Everyone has just got so much passion, so much love, so much to give," Barnes said. "There are no egos in this changing room — everyone is pulling in the same direction."

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