Copa America — another stepping stone to 2026 FIFA World Cup
WE are told that Jamaica’s Reggae Boyz have never won a game or scored a goal in two previous campaigns at the CONMEBOL Copa America.
The betting should surely be that there will be positive change for the Jamaicans come the 2024 edition next June.
Readers may recall that the Reggae Boyz covered themselves in glory last month against higher-ranked Canada when, against all odds, they advanced from the quarter-finals of the Concacaf Nations League.
Having lost the first leg of the two-way tie in Kingston 1-2, few gave the Jamaicans much of a chance in the return leg on a wet, cold night in Toronto.
But in an inspired second-half display the Reggae Boyz overturned a 0-1 deficit at half-time to win the match 3-2 — the first-ever victory by a Jamaican men’s national football team on Canadian soil — levelling the tie at 4-4 and advancing on the away goals, tiebreak rule.
That triumph not only gave Jamaica a semi-final berth in the Nations League next March, it also handed them a spot in the prestigious Copa America as one of four teams from Concacaf — the Central American, Caribbean and North American region.
The Copa America is the top regional competition for the 10 national teams from South America: Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Ecuador, Chile, Peru, Paraguay, Bolivia, Colombia and Venezuela. However, since 1993 organisers have also invited top Concacaf teams.
In yet another indication of the growing importance of the United States, in what is by some distance the world’s most popular sport, that country will host next year’s Copa America.
Since the USA will also be hosting the 2026 FIFA World Cup alongside neighbours Mexico and Canada, we expect the Copa America will serve as an important dry run — closely watched by world governing body FIFA in terms of its organisation, etc.
We are told that seven of the stadia in line to host Copa America games next June will be among 11 US venues which are set to host World Cup games in two years.
From a purely Jamaican point of view, Thursday night’s draw for the group stage of next year’s tournament is being seen in a very positive light.
That’s not to say that Jamaica’s opponents in Group B — Concacaf powerhouses Mexicio, as well as South American teams Ecuador and Venezuela — are to be underrated.
However, that’s much to be preferred in the context of other groups which include the likes of current FIFA World Cup champions and defending Copa title holders Argentina, as well as Brazil, Colombia, Uruguay, and Chile.
Hence the comment from Reggae Boyz Head Coach Mr Heimir Hallgrimsson that, “I would say we’re quite pleased. I think it’s an equal group, probably the most equal group out of all of them …”
All that said, the primary focus for Jamaica remains a place at the FIFA World 2026, qualifiers for which, as we understand it, also begin next June — prior to Copa America. That must remain front and centre for all concerned.
Important as are competitions such as Copa America and the Nations League; they are all stepping stones to that greater goal.