Nicaragua scored a shock 3-2 away win over Gold Cup runners-up Jamaica on Friday to open the third round of CONCACAF qualifying for the 2018 World Cup.
"Today we stole the eagle`s eggs," Nicaragua`s Costa Rican coach Henry Duarte said after his side put themselves in a strong position to progress when the teams meet again in the second leg in Managua on Tuesday.
Nicaragua, who won all four matches in the opening two rounds of the competition, raced out to a 3-0 lead with captain Manuel Rosas scoring from the penalty spot in the fifth minute, Carlos Chavarria finding the back of the net three minutes later and Luis Galeano striking in the 48th minute.
The Reggae Boyz, who had reached a new high meeting Mexico in July`s CONCACAF Gold Cup final, fought back in the final 22 minutes with goals from Darren Mattocks (68th) and Adrian Mariappa (78) but it was not enough.
"I was sure the lads would do a good job," Duarte was quoted as saying in the Nicaraguan newspaper El Nuevo Diaro (www.elnuevodiario.com.ni).
"It was a match with a very intense rhythm and today Nicaragua were up to it," he said.
A lack of fitness in his players allowed outright favourites Jamaica, who reached the 1998 World Cup finals in France, to hit back, he said.
"The problem wasn`t tactical but of conditioning. If we`d had more (fitness) level we`d have won this match by four or five (goals), but when the lads had legs they played good football and made Jamaica look poor."
A total of 12 teams are contesting six, two-legged series to determine the teams that will join the six seeded sides in the next phase.
Canada, who have only once qualified for the World Cup in 1986, thumped Belize 3-0 with Tosaint Ricketts scoring on either side of the break and Atiba Hutchinson adding an injury time goal.
Haiti also scored a comfortable 3-1 away win over Grenada. Jean Eudes Maurice, Mechack Jerome and Duckens Nazon each had a goal for Haiti while Anthony Straker scored from the penalty spot for Grenada.
In other action, Myles Weston`s 72nd minute penalty earned Antigua and Barbuda a 1-0 win over Guatemala while Larin`s goal in the 12th minute stood up as the winner as El Salvador beat Curacao 1-0.
Saint Vincent were a 2-0 winners over Aruba.