Jamaica and El Salvador were the surprise revelations of the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup, but only one of them may move on to the next round.
A 1-0 win for the Reggae Boyz on Tuesday ensured their place atop Group B and in the quarterfinal, leaving El Salvador with a glimmer of hope of slipping into the knockouts as a third-place team.
The disappointment, however, continued for Canada, once again eliminated from the tournament after a 0-0 draw against Costa Rica.
Here are the takeaways from the last round of matches.
Jamaica make name as underdogs
They didn’t make it out of the group stage in the Copa America, but they did it in their own regional tournament. And they did it with steely resolve and belief.
For the second time in three games, Jamaica won by just a single goal. They were strong defensively and opportunistic offensively.
El Salvador carried the bulk of the play (67 per cent) and produced most of the shots (14). Their stylish offence just could not muster goals.
Jamaica’s game was made even tougher when goalkeeper Dwayne Miller was sent to the hospital. A collision forced the 28-year-old on to a stretcher after just 20 minutes, and with that came an unexpected substitution. In came Ryan Thompson, a goalkeeper from the U.S. third tier who had played just three other times for his country.
But Thompson kept Jamaica in the game, making six saves and preserving a shutout.
“It’s unfortunate under the circumstances in which I get to go on and play,” Thompson told Pro Soccer Talk. “I’m just happy that I get to go out there and do my job, make saves, keep my team in the game.”
Canada scoreless streak haunts them
No matter how hard they tried, the Canadians simply could not find the back of the net. For a second straight Gold Cup—a total of 568 minutes of play—they failed to score a goal. And for a third straight time, they failed to exit the group stage.
It was never for a lack of effort or chances. Canada had them. Their biggest opportunity came in the 81st minute when Costa Rica goalkeeper Esteban fumbled the ball off a corner kick, allowing substitute Andre Hainault a chance to run up and poke the ball in. But Bryan Ruiz cleared it off the line, ensuring a point for his country and a spot in the quarterfinals.
Defence, on the contrary, was never an issue for Canada. They only allowed a single goal in the Gold Cup, and their goalkeeper Kenny Stamatopoulos made a tournament-high 16 saves over the three group games to give Canada a chance of qualifying until the very end.
This Gold Cup was supposed to test the Canadian men’s soccer program after a series of changes, coaching and otherwise. But it only proved to show how far behind, both tactically and technically, the 103rd-ranked nation really is.