WITH all four Group B sides level on one point at the CONCACAF Gold Cup, Mark O’Haire (@MarkOHaires) assesses the chances of Jamaica and Canada in tonight’s matchday two showdown.
Jamaica v Canada | Saturday 23.30 | BT Sport 2
The competition might not be a week old but already it’s crunch time at the CONCACAF Gold Cup. There’s little room for error in Group B with all four nations level pegging after hard-fought opening draws.
Jamaica can perhaps afford the luxury of just avoiding defeat having passed their test with pool favourites Costa Rica in their curtain-raiser. But Canada will know they desperately need three points if they’re to realise the promise and potential branded around the team in the past few months.
Talked up as the next best thing in North American football, 20-year-old striker Cyle Larin made headlines for all the wrong reasons after a horrendous miss against El Salvador but Canadian boss Benito Floro is expecting the starlet to bounce back in style.
The Canucks should be able to call upon skipper Julian De Guzman again after the midfielder failed a fitness test ahead of their 0-0 draw with El Salvador. Les Rouges were second best for large swathes of their opener but at least kept their unbeaten record against CONCACAF sides under Floro intact – it now stands at W5-D2-L0. Impressive.
Canada are certainly no mugs. There previous 12 internationals have returned W5-D5-L2 figures – during that time they’ve held European surprise package Iceland and they’ve found the back of the net in seven of their most recent eight. Of course, that record should have been enhanced if Larin hadn’t blazed an open goal over.
But this match takes place in the searing heat of Houston and with only two days rest between games, the weather is sure to take a toll. The mercury will be pushing the high 30s and you’d have to assume the Jamaicans will be more adept at handling the hot weather on Saturday night.
The Reggae Boyz’s 2-2 draw with Costa Rica was great entertainment for neutrals and showcased the best and the worst of Winfried Schafer’s side. Pace, power, athleticism, hunger and desire brought about goalscoring positions but Wes Morgan’s defence looked uneasy dealing with balls in behind and Jamaica were punished for their slack organisation.
During the Copa America Schafer’s troops defended deep and looked very comfortable but with the opposition noticeably weaker in the Gold Cup, Jamaica are expected to compete in all facets of the match. it means playing with a higher defensive line and should they struggle against the Canucks, I’d expect Larin to have a bit of joy.
That being said, Gareth McCleary was outstanding on the flanks against Costa Rica, Giles Barnes was energetic and a nuisance, Jobi McAnuff showed his worth and substitute striker Darren Mattocks posed plenty of problems for the Ticos backline when coming on.
The Reggae Boyz’s can play their part in another goal-fest and so I’m happy to hunt a pro-goals bet or two. Both Teams To Score has been chalked up at 11/8 with Coral and that holds plenty of appeal. But I’ve talked up Jamaica enough over the past month so I simply can’t resist a nibble on the 6/1 also that Jamaica win and Both Teams To Score also cops.
Jamaica v Canada – Both Teams To Score (11/8 Coral)
Jamaica v Canada – Jamaica to win and Both Teams To Score (6/1 Coral)