Disappointing result but Reggae Boyz remain on course
WE, too, share in the disappointment of our Reggae Boyz’s inability to garner maximum three points in their CONCACAF World Cup qualifying football match against Antigua and Barbuda in St John’s on Tuesday evening.
For those who may have missed it, Jamaica could only secure a 0-0 result against the tiny eastern Caribbean outfit, after beating Central American rivals Guatemala 2-1 here on the opening night four days earlier.
The result left Jamaica and the United States of America, the two seeded teams which bowed into action at the semi-final stage, on four points each, with Guatemala and Antigua and Barbuda on one point each.
We arrive at this position after giving serious consideration to the history, tradition and realities of the competing nations which make up the group from which Jamaica is trying to progress to the final round of qualification to the 2014 World Cup Finals in Brazil.
On paper Antigua and Barbuda, firsttime semi-finalists, appear the weakest team of the group. When the fixtures were announced by FIFA, Jamaica’s head coach Mr Theodore Whitmore and his technical staff, as well as their counterparts from the US and Guatemala, would have been looking to take maximum points, home and away, from the perceived minnows.
Therefore, the two points dropped on Tuesday evening could prove critical for the Reggae Boyz’ qualification bid for the final round which will be contested between February and October next year.
For those with well-trained eyes and an affinity for the technical side of the game, Mr Whitmore’s team didn’t exhibit its usual passing game or speed on the flanks. This was due partly to the presence of about six or seven cricket pitches in the centre of the field which rendered a vast square or rectangular area unsuitable for such play.
But added to that, the Boyz didn’t seem particularly perturbed about not winning the game. They never displayed the tenacity, urgency or hunger of a team which was desperate for three points in the home of the group’s weakest team.
But having said that, it’s not all doom and gloom for Jamaica’s chances of advancing to the final round, for if the Boyz were to garner maximum points at home in their next two outings and avoid defeat on the road, then qualification should be a mere formality.
Credit must be given also to the Antigua and Barbuda Football Association (ABFA), and coach Mr Tom Curtis, for a job well done. They are on the improve and it is not by accident.
Starting with their homegrown players, the ABFA created a team called the Antigua Barracudas, which play in the USL Pro League, the third tier of American football.
Players who used to work jobs in factories or on fishing boats while training for football in the evenings are now focusing full-time on the sport.
It is therefore no surprise the strides that these tiny islands of 107 square miles and 70,000 inhabitants have made to date.
Last year during the first phase of the qualifiers they won four games in a row and scored 26 goals. The big test was against Haiti, and they overcame the French-speaking nation with a 1-0 victory at home.
In their first match against regional powers the USA, Mr Curtis’s side gave a spirited performance in losing 1-3, but now they want more.
Mr Curtis believes that the ABFA is “hugely successful already” with what it has achieved. It has moulded a team that includes seven British-born players who have qualified for Antigua and Barbuda through their parents or grandparents.
The Reggae Boyz did it and now others are trying to replicate the blueprint.