The memory of Spain winning the 2010 World Cup in South Africa is fading into the background as teams all over the world look toward the 2014 World Cup, with arguably the best footballing nation the world has ever known, Brazil, hosting the tournament next year.
Teams are still scrambling for those all important points as positions in the qualifying tables start to set and become a little bit more concrete as the final path to qualification starts to draw to a close. The heavy hitters of European and South American football will no doubt be making an appearance in the likes of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo next year, but with the World Cup always comes the question – who’s going to make up the rest of the groups? The qualifying group CONCACAF, which features teams from North America, Central America and the Caribbean, manage to occasionally throw a few spanners into the works at the World Cup, usually from the group’s current leader, the United States, who are traditionally not known for their footballing prowess. The USA are almost guaranteed a spot at next year’s World Cup, but the other positions are up for grabs, and on September 10th, Jamaica take on Costa Rica, with the Jamaicans hosting Costa Rica.
How are things currently looking for both teams? Well, Costa Rica currently sit a comfortable second in the CONCACAF table, perhaps coming as a shock seeing as they’re three points ahead of Mexico, who usually make an appearance at the World Cup and are much more well-known in the soccer world than the Costa Ricans. Costa Rica were lucky to even get to the fourth round of the CONCACAF qualifying, narrowly scraping ahead of Canada and Guatemala in the third round – but with three wins under their belt in the fourth round, they’re more than proving their mettle. So, what about Jamaica? Well, despite a respectable showing in the third round, Jamaica now sit at the bottom of the CONCACAF group with two points – even a win and the earning of three valuable points against Costa Rica still wouldn’t pull them ahead of fifth-placed Panama. Jamaica need a miracle to see them play on the pitch in Brazil next year.
The last time that Costa Rica and Jamaica went head to head in March, the Costa Ricans claimed a comfortable 2-0 victory against Jamaica, so the current stars of Central America will be looking to do the same again in September. Both countries which are synonymous with the word ‘paradise’ thanks to their Caribbean beaches and natural beauty, the two nations each have a lot riding on this World Cup qualifier – a win will almost guarantee the Costa Rican team, nicknamed La Sele, a place in the 2012 World Cup, which would see them appearing on football’s grandest stage for the fourth time since 1990. If, by a miracle, the Jamaican team manage to qualify, it will only be their second time in the World Cup, with the last and only time they qualified being in 1998, when the tournament was held in France. Then again, for a small Caribbean nation, qualifying for the World Cup even one time is quite the feat in itself – Cuba, Haiti and Trinidad and Tobago are the only other Caribbean nations to have played in the World Cup.
So, who’ll come out on top in this crucial World Cup qualifier? Previous form suggests Costa Rica, but football is full of surprises, and maybe the Jamaican team has one up their sleeve. A number of holiday operators have Jamaica in their itinerary; First Choice, Thomson and On The Beach to name a few. Better off to stay here in the UK and watch it on TV in my opinion…