Jamaica drawn in Group C of Concacaf Nations League second tier


Jamaica drawn in Group C of Concacaf Nations League second tier

...against Antigua, Aruba, Guyana

By Sean A Williams
Assistant Sport Editor

Friday, March 29, 2019

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LAS VEGAS, USA — Jamaica's Reggae Boyz now know their opponents following Wednesday night's draw event of the Concacaf Nations League here.

The Boyz, who shockingly failed to secure a spot in top- tier League A after losing 0-2 to El Salvador away on Saturday in the closing round of qualifiers, will now have to do battle in the second division.

At Wednesday's gala event inside the Chelsea Theatre at the ritzy Cosmopolitan Hotel on Las Vegas's hip strip, Concacaf Chief of Football Officer Manolo Zubiria and Concacaf director of development and former Grenada international footballer Jason Roberts conducted the draw, which effectively sub-divided the three Leagues into groups.

At the end of it, Jamaica, considered one of Concacaf's top teams, will contest Group C of League B against Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, and Guyana.

That was not the kind of classification the Boyz were hoping for but, for now, their fate is sealed.

Jamaica Football Federation President Michael Ricketts, who attended the draw and yesterday's 34th Concacaf Congress, could not hide his “disappointment” of the League B interment.

Still, he struggled to find a positive spin on the letdown.

“The disappointment started from when we played El Salvador as that performance was very poor… that result against El Salvador would have caused us not to have qualified for League A, but that disappointment could very well be a blessing in disguise,” he told the Jamaica Observer yesterday.

“What we need to do now is to ensure that we are dominant in this group… we are hopeful, and we certainly will be looking to strengthen the team… we are certainly disappointed, but we have to just start over, so to speak,” Ricketts noted.

He is already taking aim at quick flight up to League A in the three-tier demotion and promotion structure, Concacaf's new national team competition to be contested by all 41 members.

“Once we top this group we will be promoted to League A. Also, we ought to use these games as practice leading up to World Cup qualifiers… we want to focus now on preparation for the Gold Cup, which we made the finals of the last two, so we need to keep that kind of record intact,” Ricketts said.

The home-and-away group stage of the 2019 Concacaf Nations League will be played on the FIFA match dates of September, October and November, with the final championship scheduled to take place in 2020.

At the conclusion of the group stage, the winners of each League A group will qualify to the final championship, while the League B and C group winners promoted to League A and B for the next edition of the competition. Additionally, the teams at the bottom of each League A and B groups will be relegated to Leagues B and C.

The full schedule, including kick-off times and venues, will be announced at a later date.

Meanwhile, other confederation members were yesterday excited at the prospects of participating in the various leagues.

Bermuda, who will contest Group B of League A against Mexico and Panama, created history in the process by qualifying for their first Gold Cup.

President of the Bermuda Football Association Mark Wade is scaling new heights of excitement with his country's good fortunes.

“It has just started to soak in what we actually achieved and I am very excited and everybody back home is excited as well… but this is a testament to all the work that we have done in terms of the development of players, so I want to say that this did not happen overnight.

“If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best, and we have been drawn against Mexico and Panama, but the players are excited and buzzing in getting to it, and they want to challenge themselves against the best in the region,” he said.

General secretary of Martinique's football Maurice Victoire attributes “hard work” and “a good youth programme” that led to League A qualification.

Martinique, a three-time Caribbean champion, will face Trinidad and Tobago and Honduras in Group C, another tight and competitive zone.

Victoire said the new Concacaf competition structure “guarantees more games and brings more passion to the game in our region”.

Although his team will not be competing at the elite League A level, Dominica Football Association boss Glen Etienne is pleased that his nation's team will have the opportunity for consistent international competition.

“I think this is the best competition for the region, and I must congratulate Concacaf for stepping up by creating a strong football atmosphere for the Caribbean… it's a tournament that will create a lot of excitement, because it's a relegation and promotion system, and I think it is good for Caribbean football and the wider Concacaf,” he noted.

Dominica were drawn against Nicaragua, Suriname and St Vincent and the Grenadines to contest Group D of League B.

Bonaire's president Ludwig Balentin told the Observer that he was pleased with the outcome of the draw and his team will dispute Group B of League C against The Bahamas and The British Virgin Islands.

“I think we will have a great chance to compete against these guys, although we don't have professional players… I am very grateful to the players and what they gave in the qualifiers, all things considered,” he noted.

Hillaren Frederick, president of the US Virgin Islands Football Association, says he welcomes the challenge of League C's Group A completed by Barbados, Cayman Islands and Saint Martin.

“All in all, I think it was a good draw for the US Virgin Islands, and I am confident that we can compete in this group… the Nations League qualifiers was a work in progress for us and you could see that we got better with each game.

“This competition is definitely the way to go, and it's our mini World Cup, so we have to just take advantage of the opportunity,” he stated.

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