Whitmore Under Pressure As Jamaica Face Uphill Battle in World Cup Qualifiers

by L Bronson

reggae boyz/jamaica mexico
Mexico's Henry Josue Martin, center, celebrates after he scored his team's second goal against Jamaica during a qualifying soccer match for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, in Mexico City, Thursday, Sept. 2, 2021. (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo)

With rumors swirling around last night that the Jamaica Football Federation’s Technical Committee had convened a meeting to discuss the future of head coach Theodore Whitmore, The Reggae Boyz, already short-handed, will face a stern test again Canada at Kingston’s National Stadium at 6:00 pm (EST) today.

Engulfed in so much off-the-field negativity, in addition to a weakened team, the character of Whitmore and his Boyz will be certainly put to scrutiny during today’s contest against a high-riding opposition who have grabbed the opportunity to be in the final eight from CONCACAF.

Jamaica sit bottom of the eight-team final round of qualification with just one point, while Canada are third on six points after one win and three drawn games, including away to the top two teams, the US and Mexico.

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The top two lead the points standings with eight points, and Panama and El Salvador are on five points, with Costa Rica and Honduras on three points each.

The game between Jamaica and the rest of the group under the circumstances is relatively narrow, with the multiple never-ending distractions, the Reggae Boyz, even at this stage of the competition, face an uphill battle that doesn’t appear to be getting any easier.

In other games today, San Jose will be the venue when hosts Costa Rica play El Salvador at 6:00 pm, as Mexico host Honduras at 6:45 pm. The last game at Panama City will see the US against Panama at 9:05 pm.

Ahead of last Thursday’s game against the US in Texas, the Reggae Boyz suffered huge blows when four players, three through injuries, and one, elective, withdrew and sent the squad spiraling into imbalance.

Of the four players, two – Liam Moore and Ethan Pinnock pulled out through injury, along with midfielder Daniel Johnson, while striker Michail Antonio of West Ham United, opted out after his request to have his personal physiotherapist accompany him on the trip was rejected by an assistant coach.

Then as if to expose the inefficiency with which the Reggae Boyz’s qualifying campaign is being managed, central defender Damion Lowe picked up a first-half caution on Thursday to add to another he had received late against Costa Rica, which has ruled him out of today’s game through suspension.

Cavalier FC’s central defender Jamoi Topey had been drafted in as cover for last Thursday’s game, but will he be trusted to take his place in this high-stakes game by Whitmore? Only time will tell as there appears Whitmore might have little or no choice in what the coach promises will more than likely be a changed team.

The Canadians are blessed with talent all across the pitch, none more famous than Bayern Munich FC’s Alphonso Davies, who plays on the left side.

They have looked a very decent side in their four games to date, and there is no chance Jamaica will benefit from any lackadaisical effort from them today. That’s how professional and slick they have been thus far.

On the contrary, the Reggae Boyz have been disjointed for the most part or sparing with their rendition of anything deserving of World Cup quality play.

Midfielder Anthony Grant has joined the squad and provides Whitmore with an option in central midfield, where Je-Vaughn Watson and Devon Williams operated last time out.

If Whitmore doesn’t trust Topey, then the veteran Watson could possibly be asked to fill in at centre back, a scenario which would have been solved had the coach been permitted to take a 26-man squad instead of 23, which the federation insisted it could afford.

For the record, the Canadians traveled with a 29-man squad to Jamaica.

In the Jamaican press today, Whitmore is quoted as saying that the team must start getting wins today if it is to remain in the hunt for a place in Qatar next year, as a draw is no longer an acceptable result. That’s added pressure on a team already reeling from various distractions and shortcomings.

How well will they cope today? Only time will tell because it gets no easier with Honduras waiting on Wednesday in the rough neighborhood of San Pedro Sula.

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