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McCleary’s Jamaica upset holders on Copa America eve

28 May 2016

Reggae Boyz overturn Chile in Viña del Mar

Royals winger Garath McCleary grabbed an assist for Jamaica as the Reggae Boyz defied the odds to triumph 2-1 away in Chile in the small hours of Saturday morning.

With Copa America Centenario kicking off next Friday in USA, victory against the third-ranked nation in the world – a team which included Arsenal forward Alexis Sanchez and Inter defender Gary Medel – has grabbed headlines for the Caribbean island with a notable friendly victory.

Chile won the 2015 tournament on home soil; usually it is contested every four years, but with the Centenario taking place to mark the 100th anniversary since the very first South American Championship back in 1916, they will have to defend their title just 12 months on.

And the performance and result that the Reggae Boyz put in will have certainly given them hope of progressing in the competition.  Royals Academy graduate Michael Hector also started the fixture, while former Reading duo Adrian Mariappa and Jobi McAnuff were also involved.

It was McCleary’s bold run down the right that opened things up for the visitors, and a low centre was controlled and converted by Birmingham City forward Clayton Donaldson for the opener.  And after the interval, the lead was doubled by Exeter City winger Joel Grant, who headed in a deep Giles Barnes cross.

Nicolas Castillo put the hosts back within a goal late on with a touch of luck – deflecting Kemar Lawrence’s clearance into the Jamaican net – but the Chileans couldn’t turn their late pressure into a leveller.

The Reggae Boyz qualified for the Copa America Centenario as champions of the Caribbean Cup 2014.  They had a busy summer last year – after taking part in the Copa America in Chile, they were then defeated in last year’s CONCACAF Gold Cup final by Mexico after creating history by becoming the first Caribbean country to reach the final – a result which they will have a chance to avenge in the group stage in less than two weeks’ time.

The trip to Chile was Jamaica’s last showing before their tournament gets underway next Sunday against Venezuela in Chicago.  Their other two group games are against twice runners-up Mexico in Pasadena and finally 15-times winners of the South America Championship and Copa America, Uruguay, in Santa Clara.

We wish the very best of luck to Garath and the Jamaica team for the Copa America Centenario.

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