Better chance for Boyz ... but
With some of the region’s top nations expected to field weakened teams at this year’s Concacaf Gold Cup tournament, local football insiders, while pointing out a possible advantage for Jamaica, are warning Reggae Boyz head coach Theodore Whitmore...
With some of the region’s top nations expected to field weakened teams at this year’s Concacaf Gold Cup tournament, local football insiders, while pointing out a possible advantage for Jamaica, are warning Reggae Boyz head coach Theodore Whitmore against pushing for the regional title, at the potential expense of the World Cup qualifiers.
Gregg Berhalter, head coach of perennial contenders USA, recently announced that he will not be selecting his team’s Europe-based players for the tournament, while Mexico and Honduras, who qualified as Concacaf’s representatives for the Tokyo Olympics, will not use any of their promising young players from the Olympic squad for the regional tournament.
With Jamaica’s pool of players getting an upgrade with the addition of several English-bred players, coaches Andrew Price and Bradley Stewart, along with football administrator and analyst, Clyde Jureidini agree that Jamaica could make a serious push for the title, but believe that with the Gold Cup final scheduled for August 1 and World Cup qualifiers commencing a month later, priority must be placed on the latter, particularly where team selection is concerned.
“It would suggest that at a glance (this is a great chance) because we have done well in the last three editions. So looking on it would suggest that we would have a stronger hand,” Jureidini stated.
“The reality though is that we haven’t had any playing, training or coordination in the last year and we cannot be fooled by the improvement of the FIFA ranking recently, as that really has to do with how much you have done, as well as how much the other teams have not done. But we haven’t coordinated,” he added.
He believes that the other regional big guns such as Honduras, USA, Mexico and Costa Rica will be fielding secondary squads in order to fine-tune for the qualifiers in September and that Jamaica should follow suit.
“The Gold Cup is a secondary prize, everyone wants to get to the bigger prize, which is the World Cup. We have much new recruits from Europe; England in particular, and it would be perfect to play these players and some local-based players and some on the periphery to have them make a case for themselves,” Jureidini said. “So I would put my eggs in one big basket and go for the World Cup qualifiers rather than flirt with winning the Gold Cup, which is not as important.”
Price, who currently coaches top-flight club Humble Lion, also thinks the Gold Cup should be used to prepare for World Cup qualification, even though he has Jamaica as one of the fancied teams.
“We are a team that should be taken seriously and respected, but I wouldn’t say we are favourites. Right now, we have new players that we want to amalgamate with the core group and we want to use it (Gold Cup) as a dress rehearsal for the World Cup qualifiers,” Price said.
“It should be a dual purpose. We should try and definitely see if we can win the tournament, but we must also use it as a dress rehearsal to prepare for the World Cup qualifiers, which is the big objective,” added Price.
Meanwhile, Stewart, who at one point assisted Whitmore with the national team, believes the Jamaican team might have an advantage in the quality of players they select for the tournament, but like Jureidini and Pryce, he believes the team will need time to work together to become a winning unit.
“It is an improved chance of playing well but there are some concerns. Without opportunities for playing, we are like a scrimmage team. Honduras, USA and Mexico are big professional environment and their populations are vastly superior, so on any given day, those countries could pick two or three teams that could give us trouble,” Stewart pointed out.
“So the fact that they will be eliminating a few people, does not mean they will be any weaker. They have quality players in abundance, so the coach (Whitmore) will need to spend quality time with his players. We have good players, there’s no doubt, but quality alone is not sufficient to give us the best chance, we have to get together,” he insisted.
The Gold Cup takes place in the USA in from July 10 to August 1. Jamaica went to the 2015 and 2017 final and made it to the semi-finals in 2019.
The final round of the World Cup qualifiers is scheduled to begin in early September.