In the weeks and month leading up to the 2016 Copa America Centenario, Jamaica were considered by many (yours truly included) a dark horse candidate to reach the latter rounds of the tournament.
After 24 minutes of their Group C opener against Venezuela at Soldier Field in Chicago, Ill., on Sunday, the Reggae Boyz found themselves down a goal and a man, plus their captain, Wes Morgan, who started the game on the bench after head coach Winfried Schafer deemed him too tired following the Leicester City center back’s month of celebrating the Foxes’ Premier League title. Morgan was eventually forced into the game as a 40th-minute substitute following an injury to New York Red Bulls defender Kemar Lawrence.
[ COPA AMERICA TODAY: Mexico-Uruguay highlights opening weekend ]
Josef Martinez put the exclamation point on Jamaica’s forgettable opening quarter-hour by bagging the game’s only goal right on 15 minutes. Nine minutes later, midfielder Rodolph Austin was shown a straight red card for studs-up contact with the shin of an opponent.
The Reggae Boyz weren’t without chances of their own, hitting the frame of the goal on two occasions, once in each half. Philadelphia Union goalkeeper Andre Blake did his part to keep it 1-0 with this stunning save in the 70th minute.
The victory sends Venezuela top of Group C for the time being (Mexico and Uruguay are set to face off at 8 p.m. ET tonight), with the Reggae Boyz obviously bottom. Up next for Jamaica, it’s Mexico, while Venezuela will face a Luis Suarez-less Uruguay side in game no. 2.