It has been 12 years since Jamaica scored a goal in a major soccer encounter with Mexico.
In a World Cup qualifier last week on the road, Jamaica again failed to find the back of the net. They, however, kept the Mexicans off the score sheet, which was a major accomplishment for the only English-speaking Caribbean side competing for a place in next year’s World Cup in Brazil.
Former Jamaica sports journalist, Errol Townshend, who was among thousands of nationals in Canada who watched the game on television, felt Jamaica should have won the contest.
“There were a few chances they had that they failed to capitalize on,” said Townshend, a lawyer and former Share columnist. “If ever you were going to beat Mexico in their backyard, I think this was the opportunity. However, the team’s performance was creditable and the coaches must be complimented for coming up with a strategy that was not totally defensive.”
The draw ended Mexico’s 19-game winning streak at the Azteca stadium.
“I don’t know if this is our worst game, but it’s the one that leaves me more upset because it was a World Cup qualifier at home,” said Mexico’s manager, Jose Manuel De la Torre, who was unbeaten in 12 contests since assuming the position in December 2010. “Sometimes you win ugly, but today we did not do even that.”
In other opening day matches in the six-team regional World Cup qualifier, Honduras shocked the United States 2-1, while Costa Rica rallied from a two-goal deficit to draw 2-2 with host country, Panama.
The qualifying series resumes on March 22 with Jamaica hosting Panama, the United States will be at home to Costa Rica and Honduras will host Mexico.
The top three teams will advance to the World Cup while the fourth-place team will meet an Oceania side for another berth in the finals.
Meanwhile, Nigeria has captured its third African Nations Cup crown and its first in 19 years.
Ranked 52nd in the world, the West Africans defeated Burkina Faso – the world’s 92nd ranked side – 1-0 in last Sunday’s championship game in Johannesburg before 87,000 fans. Sunday Mba scored the game’s only goal in the 40th minute with a left foot volley from a rebound.
Nigeria’s coach, Stephen Keshi, who joined Egyptian Mahmoud El Gohary as the only individuals to win the tournament both as a player and coach, hailed his team’s accomplishment.
“I am so proud of what my players did in this tournament,” said Keshi. “They played well and concentrated on the job. They have so much potential. When I came on board a year and a half ago, my dream was to make Nigerians happy that they could have a very good team they could be proud of. We are not there yet, but we are in the process and I am happy about that.”
On their way to the championship, Nigeria held 2012 champions Zambia to a one-all draw and defeated Ethiopia and Ivory Coast by 2-1 margins before overwhelming Mali 4-1 in the semi-finals.
Burkina Faso, on the other hand, beat Ethiopia 4-1, drew 0-0 with Zambia, squeezed by Togo 1-0 in extra-time and disposed of Ghana on penalty kicks after the teams were deadlocked at 1-1 at the end of regulation.
In the third-place playoff, Mali defeated Ghana 3-1. This was a repeat of the 2012 third-place match in which Mali shut out the Ghanaians 2-0.
Burkina Faso winger, Jonathan Pitroipa, who plays for French club Stade Rennais, won the Player of the Tournament Award while Nigerian striker, Emmanuel Emenike, who scored four goals, won the Top Goalscorer Award. Nigeria and Chelsea winger, Victor Moses, captured the Fair Play Award.
The next Africa Cup of Nations championship will take place in 2015 in Morocco.
With its third continental title in the bag, Nigeria will represent Africa in the International Soccer Federation (FIFA) Confederation Cup eight-team tournament in Brazil June 15-30.
“It’s an honour for us as Nigerians to represent Africa,” said Keshi. “I haven’t even thought about it yet, but it gives us the chance to continue to improve.”
The other participants are Spain, Japan, Mexico, Uruguay, Tahiti, Italy and host country and defending champions, Brazil, which will host the 2014 World Cup.