Jamaica were crowned champions of the Caribbean sub-region for the fourth time, beating Grenada 2-0 at home in Kingston yesterday. Two goals - both from the penalty spot - from Norway-based former Sheffield United man Luton Shelton ensured John Barnes's Reggae Boyz bounced back from their failure to reach the final round of North, Central America and Caribbean qualifying for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ last month.
The result also moved the Jamaicans through to the next year's CONCACAF Gold Cup, the bi-annual championship. They will be joined in the regional showpiece by runners-up Grenada and semi-finalists Cuba and Guadeloupe.
"After the disappointment of the World Cup qualifying campaign recently, we needed this and we did it," said former England and Liverpool winger Barnes, who took over the coaching reins for his birth country of Jamaica last month.
Guadeloupe, an overseas territory of France and not an official member of FIFA, finished third after beating Cuba 5-4 on penalties. They will travel to their second straight Gold Cup hoping to emulate their Jocelyn Angloma-led run to the semi-finals at the 2008 event in the USA.
Jamaica, who only just missed out on the final round of qualifying for South Africa 2010 on goal difference, dominated proceedings at the National Stadium, known to locals as 'The Office', from the opening whistle in yesterday's final. Shelton saw two early chances go begging before he put his side ahead on 17 minutes, hitting home a spot-kick after a foul on Dane Richards in the penalty area.
He then went on to seal the result and the title for Jamaica with another penalty in the 70th minute, his fifth goal of the tournament. The Jamaicans won four of their five games over the course of the 11-day competition and were worthy winners.
Jamaica's return to the Gold Cup will be welcome news for fans in the country. The Reggae Boyz failed to reach the event the last time it was played in the 2007, causing consternation up and down the football-crazy island.