Reggae Boyz World Cup qualification’s Possible, But…

L Bronson

KINGSTON, Jamaica – So the Reggae Boyz have completed their fixture in Group C of League B in the inaugural CONCACAF Nations League with a win and a draw. ​

The Boyz went into Monday’s final game inside Catherine Hall Stadium in a perfect win record after five games, but the much changed-up starting 11 performed below par and ended 1-1 with Guyana, a team they had defeated 4-0 away. ​

Thus Theodore Whitmore’s charges finished with 16 points, including 21 goals for and a solitary strike against, to be well clear of nearest rival Guyana on 10 points, Antigua and Barbuda on nine and Aruba pointless. ​

These outstanding results guaranteed Jamaica a ticket to the next CONCACAF Gold Cup, where the Jamaicans have been impressive over the past three editions with back-to-back finals appearance and a semi-final berth last time out. ​

The team’s good work has also resulted in them locking down a top-six placing in CONCACAF, which would secure them a place in the hexagonal (final six) for the FIFA World Cup Finals qualification campaign if they maintain that standing up to June 2020. From the hexagonal, the top three teams earn automatic berths to the 2022 FIFA World Cup Final, while the fourth-placed team earns a two-way inter-continental play-off. ​

Suddenly, a cursory glance at the football landscape in CONCACAF suggests that the Reggae Boyz stand a good chance of making a return to the “greatest show on earth”, the FIFA World Cup Finals in 2022 in Qatar. ​

It will not be easy, not by any stretch of the imagination, but neither is it far-fetched, for Head Coach Whitmore has used the League B campaign to meticulously build a solid team from defense up. ​

But he needs the support of his employers, the local governing body, the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF), to give the team the best possible chance of advancing to the World Cup Finals. ​

Firstly, the JFF must, as a matter of urgency, increase the technical staff by at least three individuals – two assistant coaches with expertise in defending and attacking, and an international scout with the expertise to access teams and help devise schemes to counteract their strengths and weaknesses. ​

This is now standard international practice, and Jamaica can’t afford to be left behind. ​

The JFF’s biggest challenge is to source the additional scarce financial resources needed to fully outfit the team, but they can’t let that deter them, as they need to go all out to take advantage of this rare opportunity. ​

In other words, they need to view this undertaking as an investment, which could be rewarded in short order with qualification to the Qatar FIFA World Cup Finals. ​

The current top-10 teams in CONCACAF based on the latest FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking are as follows: Mexico (11), USA (23), Jamaica (45), Costa Rica (47), Honduras (63), Canada (69), El Salvador (73), Curacao (76), Panama (80), and Haiti (88). ​

Mexico is always kingpins of the region; the USA is closer to Jamaica in terms of quality than it has ever been; Costa Rica is now an old team and in transition; Honduras is struggling, like Panama, but Canada is stocked with talent and could prove a potent force in this cycle; El Salvador is there or thereabouts, while Curacao and Haiti are on the improve and could prove pesky if they get into the final six.​

It is our understanding that Coach Whitmore has asked for such support in the past, and even some of the more seasoned professional players have been astonished by what he has been able to accomplish with little or no technical support. ​

A concerted effort is being made by Whitmore to advance the senior football program, and he should, at the very least, be given the support, as this cycle represents a grand opportunity to achieve great things. ​

Each team at the 2018 FIFA World Cup Finals in Russia earned $8 million for participating in the group phase, plus an additional $1.5 million for tournament preparations. ​

It is expected to be more for 2022 and that’s where the JFF should be looking to reap the benefits of this proposed investment. ​

Timing has been good to JFF President Mike Ricketts, what with the qualification of the Women’s team to the France FIFA World Cup Finals his biggest achievement. ​

He should take control of the reins and put all his energies into making sure Whitmore gets all the support he needs to continue building a solid senior Jamaica men’s team with the ultimate goal of qualifying for Qatar in 2022 for this team if far more advanced at this stage of their preparation than the heroes of the 1998 campaign.​

Bite the bullet and go for it, Mike!

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