‘OURS TO GRAB’
Reggae Boyz Captain Andre Blake says he’s confident that the national senior men’s team will advance to the knockout stages of this summer’s Copa America in the United States.
After beating Canada over two legs in the Concacaf Nations League quarter-finals last November to qualify for CONMEBOL’s showpiece, Jamaica were drawn in Group B with Mexico and South American nations Ecuador and Venezuela.
The Reggae Boyz participated in the Copa America tournament in 2015 and 2016 but finished bottom of the group both times without a win.
However, Blake is optimistic they can get the job done in 2024.
“It’s a tough one; two teams qualify. I’m going to put Jamaica at second. I don’t know how who’s going to be first, third or fourth but we’re betting ourselves for the knockout round,” he told ESPN FC’s Futbol Americas Podcast.
Blake praised his national teammates, during the interview, for demonstrating more dedication in recent games.
He recalls being frustrated with the team’s situation under then Head Coach Theodore Whitmore after not qualifying for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar which saw Jamaica’s FIFA world ranking fall from 45 to 63 in the space of a year.
However, things have been looking up for the Reggae Boyz recently under Head Coach Heimir Hallgrimsson after making the semi-finals of the Concacaf Gold Cup last July, qualifying for the Copa America and making the final four of the Nations League, which has seen them move to number 55 in the world.
Blake told the podcast that he stressed to the players the importance of maintaining a high level of performance while representing the country.
“I just think there were some conversations that needed to be had,” he said during the interview. “I was getting super frustrated because when I looked around the room and I saw all the talent that we had in the room with the amount of guys playing in the [English] Premier League, I know how good we can be. But for whatever reason when we came together with the national team, we just couldn’t figure it out.
“For me, it was getting to a point where I’m saying we’re all getting older and I do not want to look back 10 years from now and be like, ‘We had so many good players and nothing to show for it’.
“For me, it was a very hard conversation but I had to have that conversation to kinda let guys realise that, ‘Listen, we have what it takes and we just need to figure it out because we need to figure it out before it’s too late’ and guys are starting to understand that you’re not just going to show up and it’s going to happen; it’s going to take hard work and commitment.”
The Reggae Boyz will return to action when they take on USA in the Nations League semi-finals on March 21 in Arlington, Texas.
The winner will advance to the final three days later while the loser will play in the third match against Mexico or Panama, also on March 24.