Joshua Perez bagged a brace to lead El Salvador to a 2-1 win over Haiti in their Group B finale of the 2020 Concacaf Men’s Olympic Qualifying Championship on Thursday at the Estadio Jalisco in Guadalajara, Mexico.

With the victory, El Salvador’s hopes of reaching the knockout round are still alive, pending the result of the Canada-Honduras match.

El Salvador started off by poking and prodding the Haitian defence before breaking through in the 19’ with a superb strike from Joshua Perez, who received a pass in between a pair of defenders and fired in a left-footed shot to make it a 1-0 El Salvador lead.

The joy was short-lived though, as less than two minutes later Haiti pulled back level 1-1 when an El Salvador giveaway in their own half led to a quick break, with Roberto Louima fighting off a trio of defenders and beating El Salvador GK Tomas Romero for the equalizer.

El Salvador would then regain the lead right before halftime, with Perez following up his header that deflected off the post and finishing with his left foot to make it 2-1 to El Salvador.

El Salvador was keen to add to their lead to start the second half and had several looks at goal, but was unable to find a way past Haiti GK Alan Jerome.

The reprieve sparked Haiti to life in attack and Louima, along with Peterson Joseph, suddenly had the Salvadoran defence and Romero on their heels.

Danley Jean had one final look at goal for Haiti, but was unable to convert, allowing El Salvador to see things out to claim the win.

Meanwhile, Honduras claimed the top spot in Group B of the 2020 Concacaf Men’s Olympic Qualifying championship by virtue of a 1-1 draw with Canada in their group stage finale on Thursday night at the Estadio Jalisco in Guadalajara, Mexico.

The Catrachos completed the group stage with five points and a first-place finish and will now face the United States in Sunday’s semifinals in which the winner will advance to the 2020 Olympics In Tokyo.

Canada wrapped up their Group B campaign with five points as well, finishing second on goal difference and will now take on host nation Mexico in hopes of a first Olympic berth since 1984.

Honduras had a bright start and Kervin Arriaga came within a whisker of the opening goal in the 9’ with a right-footed shot that slammed onto the post and out.

Canada reacted well and after missing on an earlier header, Derek Cornelius found the target in the 28’ on his second attempt to give Canada a 1-0 lead by connecting on a cross from Patrick Metcalfe.

 Honduras’ response was immediate and two minutes later in the 30’ Denil Maldonado was first to reach Edwin Rodriguez’s free-kick and headed in past Canada GK James Pantemis to draw the Catrachos level 1-1.

The second half started off with a good tempo and Juan Carlos Obregon was set to give the Hondurans their first lead of the night in the 54’, but was unable to head into the net from just a few yards out.

In the 73’ it was Luis Palma almost converting on a loose ball in the area but the Honduran attacker saw his shot blocked by Pantemis.

In the end, Honduras were never able to find a second goal, but the result was enough to seal a first-place finish.

 

 

 

The Reggae Boyz have done well to push their CONCACAF rankings and make it directly to the final round of World Cup qualification.

But I don’t believe that this has helped them. I believe it would have been better had the Reggae Boyz not done so well up to this point.

The brand, Reggae Boyz, is not what it used to be and as it stands, the team hasn’t been getting high-quality opponents during friendlies.

I believe that the match windows the team could have used to get sharp and stay sharp will be wasted on teams not of the quality to prepare the Reggae Boyz for the harsh realities of the Octagonal they are to face in June of 2021.

So far, the Reggae Boyz, the number four team in CONCACAF, will play against the United States, Mexico, Costa Rica, and Honduras. Three other teams will join the Reggae Boyz in the final-round fight for a place at the World Cup in Qatar.

The Reggae Boyz, if properly prepared, can compete against any of these teams, but without having to play in further qualifiers before the final round, I fear they may not be.

Outside of a 3-1 defeat to the United States in June of 2019, in the last year, the Reggae Boyz have played against Curacao, Panama, Antigua & Barbuda, Guyana and Aruba.

No disrespect to these teams, but as far as oppositions go, they may not be good enough to accurately prepare the Reggae Boyz for high-quality opposition in the Octagonal.

With no international football since the spread of COVID-19 and attempt to cauterize it from creating further devastation, the Reggae Boyz have been, in a word, idle.

You might say this applies to all the teams in the final round, however, these teams have a greater history of being successful at this level.

It is the Reggae Boyz who need to step up, improve to their level.

The team, I believe, has all the requisite talent to do so. The Reggae Boyz performance in making the second Gold Cup finals in their history is proof of that.

However, coach Theodore Whitmore and standout centre half Damion Lowe, have pointed to one thing while noting the excellent chances of this team of making it to Qatar in 2022.

The two have said the preparations need to be on point.

One of the ways of preparing is to play friendlies against high-enough quality opposition to ensure, match readiness and to figure out how to diminish your weaknesses.

While the opposition the Reggae Boyz have faced over the last year may provide them match readiness, these teams do not adequately show up the Reggae Boyz’ weaknesses.

Those weaknesses will not be shown up because, again, no disrespect to the opposition so far, the Reggae Boyz are better.

The Jamaica Football Federation has kept its plans for the months preceding the Octagonal close to its chest but if the nature of friendlies in the recent past is anything to go by, the Reggae Boyz might find themselves short of work come June.

Honduras had already clinched a spot in the Nations League finals next summer heading into the final match of group play, but they didn’t let up in the closer against Trinidad and Tobago, putting up an impressive 4-0 win.

Jonathan Rubio got Los Catrachos off to a flying start, sending a powerful strike from 20 yards out past a diving Marvin Phillip in the 5th minute.

Honduras continued to dominate the early proceedings, culminating in a 20th minute goal from Brayan Moya to double the lead.

Moments before the halftime whistle, Rubio was brought down for a penalty, and Alberth Elis converted in the 45+2 minute.

The second half was more of the same story; Elis netted his second of the day in the 53rd minute to complete the scoreline.

Trinidad did have some shots on goal, but none got past Luis Lopez who ended the day with four saves.

The victory means Honduras finish the group stage with 10 points, and are likely to enter the knockout round as the #2 seed. On the other end, the defeat means Trinidad and Tobago have been relegated to League B and will enter the Gold Cup qualifiers in the second round.

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