Jamaica Wins First World Cup Game
By Joseph White
Friday, June 26, 1998; 11:56 a.m. EDT
LYON, France The Reggae Boyz got their first-ever World Cup victory Friday, with Theodore Whitmore scoring twice to give Jamaica a 2-1 victory over Japan.
In a farewell battle of tournament newcomers already eliminated from second-round contention, Whitmore scored in the 40th and 54th minutes in the first World Cup victory by a Caribbean nation since Cuba beat Romania 2-1 in 1938, also in France.
The loss ended a hard-luck tournament for Japan, which proved in all three games that it can do everything except score. Once again, the Japanese play on defense and in midfield was competent and sometimes masterful, but the 2002 Cup co-hosts lacked the quality striker who could finish off the chances and left France 98 with only one goal Masashi Nakayama's strike in the 74th minute.
Whitmore opened the scoring by capitalizing when teammate Stephen Malcolm and Japanese defender Yutaka Akita collided while trying to play the ball in the penalty area. Whitmore then drove his 12-meter shot past defender Naoki Soma and to the right of goalkeeper Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi.
Whitmore added his second when the Japanese defense gave him space to take Fitzroy Simpson's pass down the right wing. The midfielder spun defender Noria Omura around and nailed a left-footed drive from 15 meters.
Japan hit the post and forced goalkeeper Aaron Lawrence to make several solid saves in the second half, and finally broke through when Naoki Soma's long ball was headed by Wagner Lopes to Nakayama, whose one-timer from 8 meters easily beat Lawrence.
Jamaica was content to play a long-ball strategy in the early minutes, then stepped up the attack when the Japanese grew frustrated. Whitmore's second goal came immediately after a missed Japan scoring opportunity, and its deflated defenders were caught off guard.
Jamaica also had a goal disallowed in the 15th minute when Ian Goodison, who headed in a well-laid corner kick from Simpson, was apparently whistled for pushing by Austrian referee Gunter Benko.
The spirited blue-clad Japanese fans overwhelmed the black, green and gold contingent from Jamaica on another rainy day at the Stade de Gerland. Japan wanted a win to help justify its role as co-host of the 2002 World Cup.
© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press