After going undefeated in their first three games of Group B qualifying in sunny Kingston, rising Central American powers Costa Rica earned an early spot at the FIFA U-17 World Cup Korea 2007 . The USA will be joining them in the Far East despite losing out spectacularly to the hosts in their penultimate match on Friday.
First off on 28 April, the Ticos - led by coach Manuel Urena - defeated Trinidad & Tobago 2-0 thanks to two second-half goals in the space of six minutes. Jorge Castro struck first in the 70th minute and Diego Brenes rounded off the scoring in the 76th with a well-taken strike.
The red-clad side - who reached the quarter-finals of Peru 2005 - then went on to collect a hard-earned point against an impressive and ambitious Canadian outfit two days later. Though there were no goals scored in the highly tactical contest, the Central Americans had the run of the play and the better scoring chances.
Needing a win in their third match against the hosts on Wednesday to ensure early qualification for the finals in Korea, they took full advantage of some generous defending from the Jamaicans to pop the champagne with a 1-0 win thanks to a goal from Esteban Luna. With seven points from three matches, the Ticos are assured of at least third spot in the Group.
Korea 2007 will be Costa Rica's seventh FIFA U-17 world finals, best among Central American nations.
Job done for the States
The only team to have qualified for every instalment of the FIFA U-17 World Cup (formerly the FIFA U-17 World Championship), few were expecting the USA to stumble in Kingston. And stumble they did not - despite a major hiccup along the way.
A brace from Alex Nimo and another from Ellis McGloughlin saw the Americans through to a simple 3-0 win over Trinidad & Tobago in their first match on 29 April. They kept up the form in their next outing two days later to beat Canada 2-1. Goals from William Schuler and Mykell Bates were enough to see off a late Canuck fight-back.
Their second-to-last game against the hosts threw up quite a shock, however, as after going up 2-0 through Nimo and Sheanon Williams, they let the lead slip and lost out 3-2 when Shamari Brown, Ogrill Dever and John-Ross Doyley all scored in the last 12 minutes. It was the Americans' first loss at U-17 or U-16 level to Caribbean opposition since 1988 and it brought their 18-game unbeaten streak to a halt. Despite the setback, their six points from two matches are enough to ensure them at least third place with one match to go against fellow qualifiers Costa Rica.
Canada, Jamaica and T&T all have a chance to qualify as the fifth and final CONCACAF participant for Korea 2007. Canada are on four points with no matches left to play and Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago (both with 3) will clash in an all-Caribbean grudge match on Sunday. The winner would qualify automatically with six points, overtaking the Canadians.