SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- In a match between two team already eliminated from the Copa America Centenario, Uruguay saved some blushes with a comfortable 3-0 victory over hapless Jamaica.
Abel Hernandez opened the scoring for La Celeste, and the Uruguayans never looked threatened for the rest of the evening in front of 40,166 at Levi's Stadium. The Reggae Boyz, playing in their second straight Copa America, were held scoreless for the second straight tournament.
"We tried to keep possession of the play," said Oscar Tabarez. "The first goal gave us peace. In the end, we dominated the game completely."
"Today we scored three goals," continued Tabarez, "and we could have scored another three. Winning against Jamaica today was important."
"You can't make mistakes at this high level," said Jamaica head coach Winfried Schafer. "Many things were not want we wanted in this tournament."
"You don't always get what you want," said Jamaica forward Dever Orgill. "We must strive to give more."
The group stage of the 2016 Copa concludes tomorrow with the final games of Group D.
Pregame -- Nearly 35,000 tickets were sold for the match, many as part of a 4-ticket package for all the Copa games at Levi's Stadium, but two hours prior to kick-off, secondary sellers were practically giving them away.
Most of the early arrivals to the stadium watched the Mexico vs. Venezuela game on the big screen, at least until midway through the second half, when the game was relegated to the various TV screens around the stadium. The seats emptied and the concourses filled up. And when Jesus Manuel Corona scored to earn El Tri a 1-1 draw and the top spot in Group C, the assembled masses roared their approval.
Those same Mexico supporters will be back at Levi's Stadium this Saturday for a Copa quarterfinal match against the runners-up of Group D. Any one of the four competitors in that group, all still mathematically alive to qualify for the knockout rounds, will finish second and face a certain pro-Mexico crowd.
National anthems -- Everything unfolds without a hitch, and the crowds file in to their sections. It is clear by the crod distribution which parts of the stadium were sold as part of the four-ticket deals. Other sections remained nearly empty.
Team photos -- Both starting line-ups looked top-notch, surprising some observers of what will be a meaningless game in Group C -- Venezuela, with its draw against Mexico clinched second place in the group -- though Luis Suarez was again ruled ineligible for the match. Hopefully, head coach Oscar Tabarez had a chance to tell the feisty Barcelona man this time.
Kickoff -- With perfect Bay Area weather as the backdrop, Jamaica started off the game with a long shot, hoping to catch goalkeeper Fernando Muslera napping. No luck for the Reggae Boyz, as The Galatasaray goaltender calmly scooped up the speculative effort.
4' -- Edison Cavani tries a clever back-heel flick on a hard cross through the six-yard box, but he whiffs on the effort, generating a smattering of "Ooohs" from the still filing in crowd.
7' -- Big save by young Andre Blake, as Abel Hernandez sneaks past the Jamaica defense and has only the 'keeper to beat. The Philadelphia Union rising star positioned himself perfectly to deflect Hull City forward's low shot past the post for a corner kick.
18' -- Blake makes an error on clearance, and the ball find Cavani alone with space on the left side of the area. The Paris Saint Germain superstar drove toward goal, but from a tight angle rifled a shot that Blake, atoning for his clearance error, tipped into the side netting.
21' -- Goal for Uruguay! Nicolas Lodeiro surveyed the field from inside the attacking third and sliced open the defense with a diagonal ball right to the foot of Hernandez. The forward would not be denied this time, as he blasted the ball over Blake and into the top netting. Jamaica was undone by a little ball-watching on the play, but make no mistake: Lodeiro's pass was as precise as a surgeon's cut.
28' -- And Jamaica finally get their first true scoring chance, as Garath McCleary took on a defender one-on-one and struck a low ball that Muslera covered up. The Reading midfielder did well to get the open shot, but he did not make ideal contact on the ball.
31' -- Three straight corner kicks for Jamaica, and three straight stops by the Uruguay defense. Not doubt the two-time World Cup winners are looking to pick up the win tonight and avoid last place in these Copa standings.
36' -- Another top save for Blake, as Hernandez looked certain to double Uruguay's lead. The Union 'keeper is certainly going to see even more of the white-clad La Celeste bearing down on him as this game progresses. Neither team is taking it easy, and Uruguay is finding space on every counterattack.
43' -- Wes Morgan, with some razzle-dazzle on defense as he magically steps away from a Uruguay attacker, waking up the crowd and eliciting a round of "Ole!" from the press box down to the stands. The Leicester City defender is clearly enjoying some confidence off his team's improbable EPL championship run, but he'll need his teammates to step up if Jamaica is to get back into this game.
Halftime -- A good show from Uruguay in the first half, as La Celeste tries to salvage something from this tournament. In the 100 year history of the Copa America, Uruguay has never failed to win at least one game. For Jamaica, they are simply hoping to find the back of the net, given that the Reggae Boyz have been held without a goal for the tournament.
49' -- A long range effort from Michael Hector is gobbled up by Muslera as Jamaica has been on the offensive since Colombian referee Wilson Lamoroux blew his whistle to start the second half. No change in formation for the green and yellow, simply a concerted effort to keep the ball in Uruguay's half of the field.
55' -- Finally, a shot from La Celeste, though that is a generous description of Carlos Sanchez's effort. He flashed the ball toward goal initially, but it slowly but surely curled away from the target and over the sideline for a throw-in. Sanchez could only grimmace at the attempt, before dipping his head and jogging back into position.
57' -- Cavani crushes a shot from distance, but it never dipped back toward goal, and it nearly made the endzone stands. Blake had an acrobatic leap at the shot, but it was more for show. Still, impressive hops by the MLS rising star.
61' -- McCleary with a Cavani-esque blast of his own for Jamaica, but the result is the same as the ball clear the goal frame.
64' -- Jamaica nearly scores on a corner kick on one side of the field, then Uruguay transitions, and on a restart, sees Cavani strike the post with a redirected shot. Fast soccer by both squads, though a lack of a finishing touch seems indicative of their tournaments as a whole.
66' -- Another goal for Uruguay! Again, it was Lodeiro feeding Hernandez in the area, but this time the Hull City striker scuffed his shot. Fortunately, for the forward, the ball deflected off his marker Je-Vaughn Watson and past Blake for a 2-0 lead. The New England Revolution midfielder could do nothing to prevent the own-goal, as his momentum carried him through the ball, and the tough-luck Jamaicans found themselves in what looked to be an insurmountable deficit on the night.
70' -- Substitutes from both sides, as both head coaches roll the dice on the last twenty minutes of the match. The pace has not been blistering thus far, but both teams have expended a lot of effort so far.
75' -- Rumble in the area! As Cavani comes crashing in ahead of defender Dever Orgill, and nearly clatters into Blake. The referee is so far behind the play that he waves play on. Given that the Uruguayan appeared to be fouled, then dove theatrically at the contact, it seemed either a penalty kick to La Celeste or a yellow card to Cavani for embellishment was in order.
83' -- First yellow card of the match! Rodolph Austin, one of Jamaica's substitutes, cleans out Lodeiro with a boot-to-boot collision. The referee has pocketed his cards all game, but this one certainly deserved a yellow.
87' -- Time is running out for Jamaica to score their first Copa America goal ever. The Reggae Boyz failed to score in their one other Copa appearance, last year in the tournament hosted by Chile.
88' -- Another goal for La Celeste! The substitute Matias Corujo nets a beauty for Uruguay, taking the steam out of Jamaica and sealing the result, when really the result was never in doubt.
90+' -- Big sliding tackle from Morgan keeps Cavani from reaching the target. The Leicester City defender is doing everything he can to keep this game from getting completely out of hand.
90+' -- Cavani again with a shot that goes agonizingly close! The Uruguayan talisman is simply unable to break his scoring duck in this tournament.
Final -- And that does it! A comfortable 3-0 victory for Uruguay over Jamaica in the tournament closer for both teams. La Celeste keeps its streak alive of winning at least one game in every Copa America, and Jamaica keeps its streak alive of never scoring in any Copa.
Press Conference -- "Today we needed a victory," said Tabarez on Uruguay's easy win. "We are happy to obtain that victory, but we are not happy with everything else in this tournament."
"Sometimes we don't meet our objectives," said Tabarez on the tournament as a whole, "but we can learn a lot more from a defeat than a victory. This tournament has not been an exception. We need to have a lot of self reflection, and we will do this, every single player.
"If we had lost today, it would have been considered the start of a free-fall for us."
And from the Jamaica half of the press conference.
"This was not 100% Jamaica," said Schafer. "We have to find a way to win matches, especially in World Cup qualifiers coming up. This was a wake up for us. Our fight was okay, but we need to come back with our Jamaican spirit. Everybody, not just the players."
"Don't give up on us, and I say this to the Jamaica people, we need your support," said Orgill. "Everyone on the team will take responsibility and move forward as we know we can."
"Not all of our players play in the Premier League, the Bundesliga," said Schafer. "Our players have to learn. When the players come back in September, through very hard work and discipline on the field, we can both World Cup qualifiers."