World Cup qualification the real dealSaturday, July 24, 2021
Jamaica's Reggae Boyz have never won the 30-year-old Concacaf Gold Cup, though they have reached the final twice and the knockout stages more often than not.
Obviously, then, there is the strong feeling that if the Jamaicans are able to overcome the powerful host nation, United States, in their quarter-final contest in Texas tomorrow evening they will have taken a big step towards creating history.
Football analysts appear to agree that the Jamaica team has improved game by game in the regional tournament, despite losing 0-1 to Costa Rica in the last outing of the preliminary round. In fact, while the Reggae Boyz beat Suriname and Guadeloupe 2-0 and 2-1 in their first two games, there seems to be consensus that their performance against the Costa Ricans, in terms of intent, style, and verve was even more encouraging. It was certainly good to watch.
“I think it was the best of the three games, and I am pleased with the performance by the guys…we moved around the ball a bit quicker. I also believe we unlocked the Costa Ricans as we got behind them and created numerous chances, but, unfortunately, we didn't put them away,” said Reggae Boyz Coach Mr Theodore Whitmore.
Wastefulness in front of the Costa Rican goal was without doubt the Reggae Boyz's biggest weakness. If they can improve in that area against the USA, while staying compact and tight in defence and midfield, glory could be up ahead.
Of course, a rare victory over the Americans — though a wonderful achievement — would guarantee nothing. Should the Reggae Boyz advance, players and their support staff will have to guard against complacency. They should know that their opponents will be in no way intimidated.
Also, it seems to us, all should consider that there is an even bigger picture up ahead than the Gold Cup. That's the Concacaf World Cup qualifying final round set to start in September, involving Jamaica as well as Mexico, United States, Costa Rica, Honduras, Panama, Canada, and El Salvador.
It's not by accident that, apart from guest team and 2022 Fifa World Cup hosts, Qatar, all those still in contention for the Gold Cup are also in the final round of World Cup qualification. The final qualification round also includes Panama, eliminated at the group stage of the Gold Cup.
So, in a real sense, the Gold Cup tournament is a dress rehearsal for the final round of World Cup qualifiers. As much as Jamaicans would love to win the Concacaf Gold Cup, there is actually a much bigger prize ahead.
The top three teams in the Final Round of Concacaf World Cup qualification will advance directly to Qatar, while the fourth-place team will contest a two-legged Inter-Confederation Play-off series next June.
Many Jamaicans still remember with wonder the euphoria when this country qualified for the 1998 Fifa World Cup. How we would all love to have a repeat of that experience come next year. What a tonic it would be in this time of COVID-19!
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