Grenada gains respect at Digicel Caribbean Cup

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Jamaica Soccer Update   By Aldwyn McGill

Grenada  gains respect at 2008 Caribbean Championship

Grenada gains respect after T&T and Cuba win                                                                               

Photos by Don Streete

 In what may their best tournament performance to date, Grenada took care of both T&T and Cuba to reach the Digicel Cup final against Jamaica. The win against Trinidad was the biggest story of the tournament and with the upset of T&T, the Grenadians manage to clinch second place in Group A to advance to the Gold Cup for the first time.


Grenada win over Trinidad and Tobago must have been very gratifying for the Spice Boys since Grenada had not beaten T&T in 12 straight meetings dating back to their runner-up finish in the inaugural Caribbean cup in 1989.


Back then Grenada lost to T&T in the final and since that time they had not placed any higher than fourth (in 1997) in the tournament. However after the latest turn of events the Grenadians would be the first to tell you that was then and this is now.

In the opening game of Digicel 2008 Grenada was top of T&T from the get go and had to ride a stroke of bad luck when Anthony Modeste missed a penalty at the 17 minute that would have given Grenada the early lead. The penalty was given after T&T captain Aurtis Whitley was called for a handball in the penalty area and Modeste shot straight to T&T goalkeeper Marvin Phillip to keep the game goalless. .

However in spite of the missed penalty the Grenada Spice Boys took the lead at the 36th minute, after Kithson Bain scored from a left side cross and although Grenada continued to have the edge in the run of play it was T&T that changed the score on the board.


Striker Cornell Glen scored  from a well orchestrated combination play from Keon Daniel and Aklie Edwards down the T&T the left side to tie the score at the 76th minute mark. The momentum switch but  T&T could not convert their scoring opportunities late in the game, and as is usually the case, Grenada made the Warriors pay when Ricky Charles scored in injury time to give Grenada a 2-1 win.


However in their celebration over their big upset against T&Tit seemed like the spice boys forgot that their next game was against tournament favorite Jamaica and could not maintain or come up to the intensity of the Trinidad game and was blown out by the Reggae Boyz 4-0.


Grenada bounced back in their third and last group game, and defeated Barbados 4-2 to give them 6 points and put the pressure back on T&T with 3 points to defeat Jamaica in the second game of the double header. As it turned out T&T only mustered a 1-1 tie with Jamaica and was eliminated from the tournament.


Grenada advanced into the Digicel Cup semi final with Jamaica, Cuba, and Guadeloupe and with the schedule based on the cross over of teams of the groups, Grenada was up against Group B winner Cuba.


Semi final: Grenada opened their semi final game in fine fashion and was rewarded with a penalty at the 12th minute of the game. This time there was no mistake as Ricky Charles converted the penalty to put Grenada ahead. Not to be outdone Cuba Joel Colome equalized only a couple of minutes after the game restarted and Cuba surged ahead on a goal by Roberto Linares at the 33rd minute mark.


However Grenada was not to be denied as Kithson Bain scored with four minutes remaining to send the game into overtime and with no scoring in the overtime period, Grenada went on to defeat Cuba 6-5 on penalty kicks to book their spot into the Digicel Caribbean Championship against Jamaica.

The four semi final teams is guaranteed a spot in next year’s 12-team CONCACAF Gold Cup while Grenada was seeking its first title against a Jamaica team that was looking to give new head coach John Barnes a title in his debut as manager while redeeming themselves after the disappointment of failing to reach the final round of the World Cup qualifying.
Jamaica defeat Grenada 2-0 to win 2008 Caribbean Championship

                                                                                    Photos by Don StreeteJamaica Reggae Boyz defeated Grenada 2-0 to win the Digicel Cup and the 2008 Caribbean Championship. Luton Shelton provided the Reggae Boyz scoring from two penalties scored on both sides of the break. The Digicel final was played at the Jamaica National Stadium in Kingston, better known as  the “office” where only the strong can survive.

Jamaica received US$120,000 for their win while Grenada receive US70.000 as runners up. The final was the second meeting of the teams in the tournament, and although Jamaica made light work of Grenada in the first game, Grenada seem to be better prepared for the Boyz the second time around.


However in spite of their valiant efforts, the penalties at the 17th and 70th minutes left Grenada emotionally drained and seemed to remove any real prospects of a Grenada upset, especially against a Jamaica team that was no accommodating and leaving limited space for Grenada to exploit.


Jamaica proved to be King of this tournament and barring a few listless moments where the Jamaica fans found the Reggae Boyz play to be uninspiring, the Boyz deserve a lot of credit for digging deep to get their game back on track after an early exit from the 2010 W-C qualifiers.


The Boyz first glitch was on the Trinidad and Tobago group game when the Boyz struggled and allowed T&T to tie the score 1-1 towards the end of the game. At that time there were a few tremors but not enough to do any damage since T&T was out of the tournament.

Then came the unpleasantaries when the Jamaica fans felt that the Boyz was showing no urgency in their play in the first half of their semi final game against Guadeloupe and showed their displeasure by showering the Boyz with a chorus of boos at the end of the half for good measure.


The gesture worked as the Boyz responded with an inspired style of play after a listless 1-0 halftime lead to defeat Guadeloupe 2-0 and secure a spot into the final.

Cuba, the other team favored to reach the final, did not adjust and as a result was not as fortunate as Jamaica when they met Grenada. With their semi final spot secured heading into their last group game against Haiti, the Cubans opted to rest their starters for the semi final.


There plan backfired as Grenada stepped up the tempo and caused the Cubans to struggled to reestablish their defensively chemistry. Grenada gained confidence as the game progressed and managed to squeeze in a late equalizer to send the game into overtime tied at two goals apiece.

The score remained deadlock with no additional scoring in the overtime period as Grenada went on to defeat Cuba 6-5 on penalty kicks to set up a rematch with Jamaica for the final.


Guadeloupe finished the Digicel tournament with a 5-4 win over Cuba again on penalty kicks for third place over Cuba after the teams finished scoreless. Guadeloupe received US50.000 for the win, while Cuba received US30,000 for their fourth place finish.


The 2008 Digicel tournament may mean different things to different people, but one thing that seem to be in the makings is that the four semi finalists of the Digicel Caribbean championship could make life very difficult for the top seeds at Gold Cup 2009.

The JFF and new coach and former England and Liverpool winger John Barnes and his staff also  deserves a lot of credit for putting their football program and the revitalized Reggae Boyz back on the good foot to win a championship in such a short space of time.

Barnes must have been made aware that technical and tactical improvements may not have been strong points of negotiation with the JFF since winning may have been the yard stick.


However with the Digicel Cup safely in Jamaica hands, Barnes exhaled and said “After the disappointment of the World Cup qualifying campaign recently, we needed this and we did it “.


In retrospect it was Barnes who needed the win and with his added ingenuinity he has now extended the Boyz undefeated streak to 8 games dating back to the beginning of October against Mexico.


Grenada is also making great strides in their football and if the 2008 Digicel Cup is any indication. The Spicey Greens created the biggest upset at the Cup after knocking Trinidad and Tobago out of Gold Cup 2009 and qualify for the CONCACAF Gold Cup for the first time as a result.


14.12.2008 Jamaica 2- Grenada 0   2:0 (1:0) Kingston, JAM 17:00
Third Place
14.12.2008 Guadeloupe – Cuba 0:0, 4:5 on penalties Kingston, JAM 19:00


11.12.2008 Cuba – Grenada 2:2, 5:6 on penalties Kingston, JAM
11.12.2008 Jamaica – Guadeloupe 2:0 (1:0) Kingston, JAM


Haiti and T&T sent packing from Caribbean Championship

The Digicel Caribbean football Championship is coming down to the wire this weekend and although it seems to be cool runnings for the Reggae Boyz in the friendly confines of the office in Kingston, there are teams that are certain to try and change the tempo of the games.


Jamaica and Grenada clinched first and second place of Group A and as a result will be playing Guadeloupe and Cuba respectively in the semi final of the Digicel Caribbean Championship on Thursday as all four teams automatically clinched a spot into the CONCACAF Gold Cup 2009.


Haiti and Trinidad and Tobago the first and second place finishers at the 2006 Digicel Caribbean Championship, disappointed their supporters by finishing third in their respective groups, because they tried to accomplish their objective in the last game instead of the three games provided.


As such the 2008 results of the Digicel Cup has reinforced the notion that any team can be defeated in Caribbean competition on any given day and if the day given does not fall on a FIFA date the chances are increase of an upset.


Unlike the Gold Cup it is understood that some of the tournaments in the Caribbean will be played away from FIFA dates and obviously the teams with the most international players would be adversely affected, but the old cliché is a team is only as good as its bench.


Trinidad and Tobago with a lack of team chemistry was the first casualty of the tournament after they opened the tournament with a 2-1 loss to Grenada after having the distinction as the only surviving Caribbean team in the upcoming final round of the CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers.


After the Grenada loss, the Warriors defeated Barbados 2-1 in their second game but tied with Jamaica 1-1 to slip to third place in the group. At the time Jamaica was the group leader with a spot into the semi final round at stake in the game. As a result of the 1-1 tie T&T was eliminated since Grenada had defeated Barbados 4-2 earlier to gain 6 points to the Warriors 4 points.


In Group B, Haiti the defending Caribbean champion opened with a 1-1 tie against Antigua and Barbuda and with a 3-2 loss against Guadeloupe in their second game they fell short after only mustering a 1-0 victory over a Cuba team that had rested at least six of their players.


Haiti was eliminated with 2 goals short of the 6 goals scored by Guadeloupe with the two teams tied on points and a goal difference of zero as Guadeloupe tied with Antigua and Barbuda 1-1.


Although Jamaica will be tough to beat at home at the office in Kingston, I am impress with the play of Cuba which has been the most consistent team in the tournament thus far and showed depth by not allowing Haiti to score the required amount of goals to advance with mostly bench players.


Guadeloupe is the dark horse in this race and although they have not played to the level of their Gold Cup semi final form thus far, they are more than capable of stifling the Jamaica attack on a good day. Guadeloupe showed resiliency after regrouping to defeated Haiti 3-2 in their second game after losing to Cuba 2-1, while closing of their schedule with 2-2 tie against Antigua and Barbuda.


The Boyz stumble out of the blocks against Barbados in their first game to come from behind to win 2-1, and although they regrouped to do quick work of Grenada in a 4-0 win they were not impressive against T&T although as always the Soca Warriors-Reggae Boyz clash was another nail biters that ended in a 1-1 tie.

The fact that the Soca Warriors are out of the tournament could hurt the Reggae Boyz since the anticipated Jamaica – T&T final has dissipated and Jamaica will have to pick up their intensity of play and refocus to win the Championship in the absence of the Soca Warriors.


Jamaica and Cuba are favored to reach the Digicel Cup final but their favored edge is only on paper and at present, paper can go up in smoke when Grenada and Guadeloupe turn up the heat on game day. The two semi final games will present a contrast of styles in play and the team that can impose their will in regards to ball possession I suspect will win their game.


The Digicel Caribbean Championship semi final is schedule for this Thursday with Jamaica and Grenada crossing over to play Guadeloupe and Cuba respectively. Jamaica is riding a 6 game and is under pressure to deliver since their supporters and new Reggae Boyz coach John Barnes will settle for nothing les than the Digicel Caribbean championship.


However Cuba does have a legitimate shot at the championship after clinching their semi final spot early and may have a tactical and physical advantage with most of their starters rested. Grenada is no slouch while having one of their best tournament performance to date and the element of surprise on their side for what that is worth.


Grenada will have to be more consistent since they were embarrassed in their second game against Jamaica 4-0 after their big win against T&T. However they did complete their group fixture with a convincing 4-2 win over Barbados to clinch second place in Group A.

Teams itching for good start at Digicel Caribbean Cup

The Caribbean Football Championship kicks off with Group A playing in Kingston while Group B plays in Montego Bay.  Trinidad and Tobago is in Group A with Grenada, Barbados and host Jamaica while Haiti the defending Caribbean champion is in Group B with Guadeloupe, Cuba and Antigua and Barbuda.

The hype of the tournament is surrounding the Jamaica Reggae Boyz and the Soca Warriors in Group A but Jamaica is on a three game winning streak at the office in Kingston to end their World Cup campaign and will be difficult to beat.

However not to be outdone Trinidad & Tobago Soca Warriors has gained confidence and riding a Rhythm after winning their last two games and is the only Caribbean team still battling in the final round of the CONCACAF qualifying for World Cup South Africa 2010.

Although Jamaica and T&T are favored to advance out of Group A to the semi-finals, they would still have to get by Grenada and Barbados in their first two games before meeting each other on Sunday to what many think would be the game to decide the group winner.

Trinidad and Tobago will play Grenada in the first game of the double header while Jamaica will play the second game against Barbados while they switch opponents for Friday’s game before Sunday’s clash. Jamaica will seek redemption after bowing out of the tournament with a disappointing performance and fail to make Gold Cup 2007.

The Soca Warriors have won the Caribbean title a record eight times which is more than twice as many times as the closest team under John Barnes the Reggae Boyz will be under their third manager in a matter of months. Barnes has called up 11 overseas players, the majority of them coming out of the Major League Soccer, which completed its season on November 23 and a couple from Norway, which finished its season on November 2.

In Group B defending champion Haiti and Cuba will be keen to improve their play after they were eliminated from the 2010 World Cup. Haiti failed to win a game in the semifinal (third) round of the World Cup qualifying while Cuba defeated Guatemala but were not consistant and did not maintain their level of play in the group.

This group will be playing in Montego Bay on Thursday with Cuba playing Guadeloupe, while Haiti plays Antigua & Barbuda in the second game. With Guadeloupe a rising power in the region Cuba and Haiti may have to battle it out for second place which will carry a spot to the semi-finals.

The top four places will carry an automatic berth into CONCACAF Gold Cup 2009 with the regional title, as Caribbean Champions which carries bragging rights and pride.   Grenada, Barbados, and Antigua will have to come up with a master plan since they have never qualified for the Gold Cup.

Grenada finished runner-up in the inaugural Caribbean cup in 1989, after losing to Trinidad in the final, but has not placed any higher than fourth (in 1997) since that time. Barbados came in fourth in 2005, while Antigua’s best showing was in 1998 when they reached the semifinals.

Only Haiti (2007) and Martinique (1993) have won the Caribbean championship besides T&T and Jamaica. Trinidad and Tobago has won the Championship title eight times while Jamaica has won it three. Stay tuned!

Jamaica last won the championship in 2005, but has failed to advance out of its first-round qualifying group for the 2007Gold Cup championship. However this time the Boyz are hungry , disappointed and angry. Stay Tuned!