Lowe thinks Boyz well-positioned to make best of new World Cup qualifying format

Thursday, July 30, 2020


New format or not, central defender Damion Lowe has always maintained that Jamaica's Reggae Boyz possess the goods to book one of Concacaf's three direct qualifying spots to Qatar 2022.

The fourth-place finisher in the old and the new qualifying formats would engage an opponent in an inter-continental play-off for an additional spot for the confederation.

On Monday, Concacaf announced a new Qatar World Cup qualifying format, a forced action due to the upending of football calendars brought on by the deadly coronavirus pandemic.

The changes to the qualifying set-up will now see eight teams, not the traditional six, doing battle in the final round for those three-and-half qualifying places.

The top five Fifa-ranked nations of July 16, 2020 – Mexico, USA, Costa Rica, Jamaica and Honduras — have secured their spots to octagonal. They await three more who will emerge from a 30-team tournament set to begin in the Fifa windows of October and November of this year.

Lowe, 27, who is expected to figure prominently in Jamaica's quest for another senior World Cup qualification, says the Boyz' performance over the past six years or so is a key indicator that they have the capacity to clinch a qualification spot to Qatar.

“To be honest, if you look at the Gold Cup tournaments and those results over the past years, we have been the second to third best in Concacaf, so I believe our chances are as good as anyone else.

“I believe the teams ranked ahead of us is because they play bigger opponents and more games, but if you look at tournaments where we play against each other, Jamaica are second or third and we can challenge Mexico and anybody else when we are prepared properly,” he told the Jamaica Observerfrom his home in Florida, yesterday.

The former IK Start defender says to be guaranteed a spot in the top five of the octagonal is just the beginning of what his required for the team to be successful when final round action gets underway next summer.

“We maybe fourth ranked now, but we have to scout properly in order to find the right pieces. When we find the pieces, we have to now play top opponents to help us prepare for the qualifiers,” he said.

Lowe, formerly of the Tampa Bay Rowdies, says the time between now and then brings a benefit, but it should be time spent on deep planning from the technical platform to corporate and governance.

“Yes, we will be well rested and well prepared to get the job done, and they [Jamaica Football Federation] should've been planning already… but when the time comes we should have sponsors and all on board to help us,” he noted.

Lowe believes players should be close, if not, at their best when the octagonal gets around in June, 2021.

“I just hope to be in top shape and playing at my best during that time. But usually in June and July players tend to peak as it will be mid-season or just coming out of pre-season,” said the free agent, who could be moving to a new club soon.

Lowe says he supports the new format because it gives each of Concacaf's 35 Fifa members a shot at the World Cup and crucial competitive matches that could positively impact their standing in the Nations League.

“To me, I have no problem with it [new format] because everyone deserves a chance as long as you work for it,” he ended.

Concacaf says its new format of the Fifa World Cup Qatar 2022 qualifiers will comprise three rounds and will provide all participating members with the chance to compete for the Confederation's three and a half World Cup spots.

The first round (30 teams) will be played between teams ranked 6-35 based on the Fifa rankings as of July 16, 2020. The 30 men's national teams will be drawn into six groups of five in a seeded draw. The six highest ranked teams — El Salvador, Canada, Curacao, Panama, Haiti, and Trinidad and Tobago —will be pre-seeded into groups A to F, respectively.

Each team will play every other team in their group once, playing a total of four matches — two home and two away. These games will be played in the Fifa match windows of October 2020 and November 2020.

At the end of the first round, the six group winners will progress to the second phase.

The second round (six teams) will be played between the group winners from the first round, with the matchups pre-determined as follows: Group A winner vs Group F winner, Group B winner vs Group E winner and Group C winner vs Group D winner.

The teams will play home and away in a direct elimination format in the Fifa match window of March 2021. The three winners will progress to the Final Round. Three winners from the second round join the Concacaf nations ranked one to five based on the Fifa rankings. Those countries are Mexico, USA, Costa Rica, Jamaica and Honduras.

The Final Round will begin in the double Fifa match window in June 2021 and continue in the windows of September, October, November 2021, January and March 2022.

The eight teams will play each other home and away, with each team playing 14 matches.

At the end of the final round, the top three teams will qualify directly to Qatar 2022, with the fourth-placed team to engage in an intercontinental play-off, scheduled for June 2022.