THE eyes of the Caribbean are now focussed on Jamaica, not because of its heavy borrowing, or high crime rate, but due to a magnificent performance by the nation's footballers who tamed the mighty Trinidad and Tobago 2-0 in yesterday's Shell Caribbean Cup final at the National Stadium.
Paul "Tegat" Davis maintained his record of scoring in every game, with a vital sixth minute strike, followed by a scorching shot in the 48th minute from Winston Anglin's left boot, which put the issue beyond doubt.
Like saving the best wine for the last, Jamaica charmed the 20,000 crowd with good running on and off the ball and admirable set plays.
The build-up to the first goal gave the feeling that a World Cup match was on. Starting from Anthony Corbett in defence, Jamaica pushed the ball around sweetly to Hector Wright, whose shot towards goal from 40 metres was blocked by a defender but fell into Davis' path. Like a tiger ready to pounce, the Montego Bay idol easily beat an advancing goalkeeper Michael Maurice to his right as the stadium went wild.
With Anglin nullifying Russell Latapy's movements in midfield, Trinidad and Tobago ran out of
ideas as to how best to plan their attacks. The emphasis placed on Latapy allowed Paul Elliot-Allen to assume the role of playmaker for his side.
Elliot-Allen engineered some neat moves by the visitors and had the Jamaican defence making hurried clearances as the Jamaican midfield again decreased its workload.
The black, green and gold flags waved wildly again three minutes inside the second half, salutation for another good Jamaican buildup.
A pass from the left by Hector Wright was momentarily cleared by a Trinidad and Tobago defender. The hard-working Anglin quickly got to it and without much hesitation, released his scud missile which hit the upright post and fell into the back of the net, well out of goalie Maurice's reach.
Davis, who was still visibly bothered by the thigh injury, left the field to a standing ovation in the 63rd minute, and was later to be named 'Most Valuable Player' and top goalscorer.
"It's not something new. I am used to this kind of thing," said Davis. "It really feels good to get these two awards. I didn't do it for myself, but for the team and the entire Jamaica. My injury was bothering me, and even in the second half I just could not put more into my game. But I just went out there to do my best and made up my mind that anything happens
just happens," added Davis, who also revealed he will not be returning to Israel to play professional football.
Trinidad and Tobago, who were again without injured striker Leonson Lewis, were struck another blow Sunday morning when attacking defender Marvin Faustin was struck with a virus.
The mood of the Jamaicans however gave indications that had the two been around, the story would have been the same.
"We had planned to play this way," winning coach Carl Brown said. "We believed we needed to get on top of the Trinidadians early as we suspected their back line. The feeling was that if we were going to win we had to get them under pressure early. The tonic we asked for was an early goal, and we got just that from 'Tegat' Davis.
"Whenever we get these early goals they tend to play for themselves. We saw (Hugh) Blair in particular trying to get a goal for himself and this is where we thought the breakdown came because our midfield lapsed."
Brown said the squad will now break for a week and resume training next Friday to prepare for the friendly international game against Italian club Piza here on June 12, followed by the CONCACAF Gold Cup in Los Angeles from June 28.
Losing coach Edgar Vidale hailed the new champions.
"What do you ask for when we play a final like this. It has been a fantastic final. The team today was Jamaica. Our boys, for my part, pleased me. They played a good game — the kind of game people came here to see. I am hoping that this fantastic crowd appreciated what they saw today.
"We obviously missed Leonson and Marvin, but after you get a goal like that second one you can't beat a team like this."
St. Lucia won third place with a 4-1 whipping of Guyana. Martin Alexander, Phillip Gilbert, captain Victorine Weekes and Earl John were St. Lucia's scorers. Anthony Stanton netted for Guyana.
'TEGAT' ON THE GO: Scorer of Jamaica's opening goal, Paul "Tegat" Davis (right) keeps the ball under control as the Trinidad and Tobago captain, Clayton Morris (left) puts in a tackle during yesterday's Shell Caribbean Cup final at the National Stadium. Behind Davis is the other scorer, Winston Anglin, while Guyanese referee Evaroy Babb keeps a vigilant eye on the play. -Wilkinson photo
VICTORY LAP: Members of Jamaica's team jog around the National Stadium's track after accomplishing their mission of winning the Shell Caribbean Cup. From left are Caple Donaldson, Roderick Reid, Hugh Blair, goalkeeper Clive Smith, Paul Davis (partly hidden), Montique Long, Richard Davis, Kenneth Campbell (assistant coach), Walter Boyd (partly hidden), and Wayne Palmer. -Wilkinson photo