Posted on October 12, 2012
By Michael Lewis
Jamaican striker Ryan Johnson has mixed emotions about his team’s World Cup qualifier at Guatemala on Friday night.
Even though the Reggae Boyz are tied with the Central Americans and the United States with 2-1-1 records and seven points, they trail their rivals in goal differential in CONCACAF Group A. Only the two top teams will advance to next year’s hexagonal stage.
“I’m very confident, but at the same time I am very nervous,” he said. “I just want us to go in there and perform well and get through these games and not being in any sticky situations going into the last game. I am definitely confident of our abilities, but I definitely don’t know what’s going to happen. But I am nervous about that.”
Johnson wasn’t surprised the competition among the top three teams would be this close.
“I just knew everybody was going to get points against Antigua and that’s what happened with Guatemala,” Johnson said of the Central Americans’ back-to-back wins in September.
“But now, their last two games are against us and the U.S. and it’s going to be a lot more difficult for them to pick up those kind of points, so. I just knew it was going to come down to the last two games, no matter what the situation. So, I was prepared for these last two games.”
Regardless what transpires on Friday, the group won’t be settled until Tuesday, when Jamaica hosts Antigua and Guatemala visits the U.S.
Asked if he thought getting a tie in Guatemala would be good for Jamaica, Johnson replied, “Yes, but that means we will have to depend on the USA beating them in the U.S. At the same time, we can’t say that Antigua is going to be an easy win because it’s not because we tied them at Antigua. I think we need to go into both games looking to win and everything should be fine.”
The Jamaicans could not solve Antigua (0-3-1, one) in June, playing to a scoreless draw. The Benna Boys, who have never gone this far in qualifying, needs a win to stay alive.
“They have quality players that have played in England,” Johnson said.
Having been around the block with the Caribbean side and Guatemala, Jamaica knows what to expect this time.
“Just with Antigua — not to underestimate them,” Johnson said. “With Guatemala we just had to see the game out. We allowed them to score that late goal on us to make it 2-1. It could have been worse. It could have been 1-1. We just need to learn how to see the games through when we do have the lead.
“We learned a good amount from each team. We definitely think we can beat them. We’re definitely going into the game positive and believing in ourselves. I definitely think we can get the points that we need.”
No one has to remind Johnson how vital it was for the Reggae Boyz to secure three points against the Americans in Kingston on Sept. 7. They recorded a 2-1 win, the first victory over the U.S. in 19 international matches.
“It was huge. To think to get three points out of six going against the U.S. back to back in a four-day span, that’s huge,” he said. “I think we did the best that we possibly could in that situation. I’m satisfied on how it turned out for us.”
Photo: Ryan Johnson: “I just want us to go in there and perform well and get through these games.” Wade Jackson/YCJ
Categories: Antigua and Barbuda, Caribbean, Guatemala, Jamaica, U.S.A., World Cup Qualifying
Tags: CONCACAF, Ryan Johnson, Toronto FC, World Cup qualifying