(ABOVE) Nicaragua (pictured) celebrates after defeating host Jamaica in a World Cup qualifier on September 4, 2015, in Kingston.
KINGSTON, Jamaica – In its first-ever game in the third round of World Cup Qualifying, visiting Nicaragua made history by earning a 3-2 win over 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup runner-up Jamaica.
The victory improved the Pinoleros to a perfect 5-0-0 in the competition, leaving them needing only a draw on Tuesday against the Reggae Boyz to guarantee a place in the first group stage.
Although head coach Henry Duarte was delighted by what Nicaragua had achieved on Friday night, he acknowledged that job is far from done for a team that has never qualified for a World Cup.
“One looks at the Jamaicans and is surprised by their physical strength, but our boys had the fortitude in their hearts and showed it on the field,” said Duarte, a 56-year-old Costa Rican. “I have told the players that we still haven’t won anything yet. I have told them that we are halfway down the road and we are going to make history, but we still have a ways to go.”
Nicaragua jumped out to a 2-0 lead within the opening seven minutes at the National Stadium, before Luis Galeano added a third just two minutes into the second half. The Jamaicans responded with two unanswered goals, only to be thwarted by the exceptional play of goalkeeper Justo Llorente in the final 12 minutes.
Forward Carlos Chavarria, who extended his scoring streak in qualifying to three straight with Nicaragua’s second goal, said that a quick start was part of the strategy.
“The key was striking early, scare them and put doubt in them and that’s what we did,” the 21-year-old remarked.
With the odds seemingly in Jamaica’s favor, especially since it was looking to impress in front of the home crowd after a memorable Gold Cup campaign, Nicaragua was in search of an edge. Impressive defender Jason Casco defender explained how that potential advantage was identified.
“When I saw the Jamaica players, I said to [Luis] Fernando Copete, ‘Hey man, those guys are big’,” the 24-year-old finished. “Then, I added, ‘but my heart is bigger and we are going to show it’ and thank God we did it.”
Now, Nicaragua will have to do it once again against the Jamaicans. On Tuesday, they will square off at the Estadio Nacional in Managua.