AHEAD OF THE GAME!
As they look to qualify for the 2024 Copa America, Reggae Boyz Assistant Coach Merron Gordon says they’ve already begun preparation ahead of their Concacaf Nations League A quarter-finals matchup with Canada in November.
The Jamaicans were paired against the Canadians on Wednesday, following the completion of the group stage on Tuesday.
Despite finishing top of Group B with 10 points, Jamaica were ranked as the second-best group winner as Panama, who finished top Group A with 10 points, had a plus-seven goal difference compared to Jamaica’s plus five.
Based on the Concacaf rankings, Canada were seeded third, which meant that they would face the second-best group winner, the Reggae Boyz.
Gordon told the Jamaica Observer that the Heimir Hallgrimsson-led coaching staff has been ahead of the curve for the challenge.
“We knew that more than likely we’d play them. We started our planning, in terms of playing Canada, a while now based on the seeding and where we were on the table… it was a high possibility, so the plan has started long before now,” he said.
The first leg will take place at National Stadium on Friday, November 17, with the second leg set for Tuesday, November 21 at the BMO Field in Toronto.
Jamaica are winless against Canada in their last two competitive matches, with a goalless draw at National Stadium in October 2021 and 4-0 defeat in March 2022 which secured their qualification for the FIFA World Cup in Qatar last December.
Gordon was part of the coaching staff in both games, but says the team has come a far way and is expecting a better result.
“I think the mindset has changed; we are growing as a team also. We were a good unit back then; however, with a few changes and additional players, we’ve gotten better,” Gordon said.
“So it’s just for us to keep the ball rolling, keep the guys focused, and keep the technical and tactical part of our football sound, because we have to be to beat teams like Canada.”
The other matchups will see top-seeded USA taking on Trinidad and Tobago, second-seeded Mexico battling Honduras, and fourth-ranked Costa Rica facing Panama.
An aggregate victory in the quarter-finals would mean the Boyz would advance to the Nations League finals next March but also automatically for next summer’s Copa America in the United States where they could come up against the likes of Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay.
However, a defeat would mean they would have to go into a play-in tournament next March with the three other losing quarter-finalists, where they would vie for the final two spots for the Conmebol showpiece.
Jamaica have played in two editions of the Copa America, both under former Head Coach Winfried Schaefer.
They were invited in 2015 by South America’s football governing body and finished last in their group after defeats to Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay. They qualified for the 2016 edition by winning the Caribbean Cup but again finished bottom of the group after losses to Uruguay, Venezuela, and Mexico.