Sport

Caribbean members say new World Cup qualifying model offers hope

Sunday, September 15, 2019

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The ground-breaking all-inclusive Concacaf Nations League (CNL) is already giving rise to hope and belief in the confederation.

With the flagship Gold Cup in reach for more members and a new format to World Cup qualification in Concacaf, the possibilities for Caribbean members have never been so high.

With Concacaf's new competition structure, football life in the Caribbean, and even in Central America, has never been so good and president of the Grenada Football Association (GFA) Cheney Joseph is among those who have caught the fever.

“Our pursuit on the CNL group stage is a three-prong effort, which includes moving to League A, qualifying for the next Concacaf Gold Cup, and a shot at the FIFA World Cup in Qatar. The new format has caused us to do introspection and to recognise that investment in the game also requires having a flagship team to rally the nation behind us,” he told the Jamaica Observer on Friday.

The new World Cup qualifying format for Qatar 2022 will see the top six Fifa-ranked teams of Concacaf up to June 2020 contest the Hexagonal, from which three automatically advance.

In a second competition, which is to be played simultaneously with the top-tier tournament, the other 29 Fifa members will fight for a chance to play-off for the half-spot with the fourth-place finisher of the Hexagonal.

And even though Joseph's Spice Boys are currently 173 by Fifa, the GFA boss remains optimistic that his country still has a shot at greatness with the new Concacaf pathways.

“Our immediate pursuit is to be in a favourable ranking come June 2020 to get a shot at the World Cup. Grenada now have a chance at competing with the best of our region and we embrace the opportunity to play in the newly revised format. This new format provides opportunities for us to market the game and our team and to increase revenue generation through our own efforts,” he said.

The Grenadian says the CNL has opened doors of possibilities that weren't there before, and other members should take full advantage of the opportunities as his association intends to do.

“The CNL has revived our aspiration as a footballing nation to ignite the passion of our players at home and abroad. This has afforded Grenada the opportunity to engage the Diaspora in seeking out talent to take us to the top level of Concacaf. Additionally, we hope for continued success emulating the efforts of Jamaica, Haiti, Curacao, and Trinidad and Tobago as well as the pursuits of smaller nations such as Montserrat and St Kitts and Nevis,” noted the veteran executive.

As an immediate goal, Joseph says Grenada “hope to return to the top 10 nations of our Confederation in the next two to three years”.

President of the Cayman Islands Football Association (CIFA) Alfredo Whittaker says the new competitions and qualifying formats being pursued by Concacaf allow small members to dream big.

“We now have a full-time programme instead of seasonal matches. Gone are the days when our national team would be idle on FIFA dates because we can't get a friendly international game organised, but now our national team have meaningful games and this has given tremendous impetus to our football programme,” Whittaker said.

The CIFA head, who has distinguished himself in referee planning and adminsitration in Concacaf for many years, argues that the new World Cup qualifying format, in particular, brings with it opportunities that were non-existent with the restrictive model that was long used to determine Concacaf's representatives to Fifa World Cups.

“For the World Cup qualifiers in the past we would have been in a set-up to play just a few matches and spend the better part of the four-year cycle idle. For this cycle we will have more group stage matches and competing over a longer programme, and this is good for our development, our fan base, and our commercial partnerships,” Whittaker ended.

— Sean Williams


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