Caribbean Cup victory vindication for slipping Reggae BoyzSaturday, November 22, 2014
THIS newspaper takes immense satisfaction for being able to congratulate coach Mr Winfried Schaefer and his team for the just-concluded triumphant campaign in the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) Men's Caribbean Cup.
As football watchers will know, Mr Schaefer had come under severe pressure with some people actually calling for his dismissal had he failed to win the regional competition on home soil.
His critics were upset that under his stewardship the Reggae Boyz had fallen precipitously in the FIFA rankings to 113th just before the start of the CFU tournament.
Yet, as we pointed out in this space two weeks back, the freefall had to be placed in context.
The fact was that Mr Schaefer -- new to his job and anxious to become familiar with the top players available to him -- as well as the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) took a calculated risk.
They accepted invitations to play a string of Friendly Internationals in North America, Europe and Asia with very little preparation. Not unexpectedly, the Reggae Boyz lost most of those games. Hence the slide in the rankings.
The betting on the part of Mr Schaefer and the JFF was that regardless of the results, the Reggae Boyz would be a stronger unit, having had the experience.
This newspaper believes the Reggae Boyz's performance in Montego Bay proved their handlers right. It wasn't just that they won. The fact was that the Jamaica team played compact, constructive and very effective football.
From this newspaper's perspective they were particularly efficient in their defensive organisation -- an aspect that's an absolute imperative if they are to successfully campaign for a place at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
It should be noted that even before the start of the CFU tournament, the Reggae Boyz were invited guests to the South American Championships, Copa América in Chile next year. Their CFU triumph justified that invitation.
Also, the top-four finish in the CFU tournament has guaranteed Jamaica a place at next year's CONCACAF Gold Cup. Crucially, by winning, the Reggae Boyz will now be among an elite group at the special edition of the 2016 Copa América Centenario set for the United States in 2016.
What it all means is that Jamaica is guaranteed top-flight competition leading up to and during the CONCACAF phase of qualification for the World Cup in Russia. Add to that the obvious gain in respect and marketability, spoken of by JFF head Captain Horace Burrell, and the Reggae Boyz find themselves in an enviable position.
Seemingly, the one major drawback in terms of the CFU tournament in Montego Bay was the overloaded schedule. To ask the teams to play four games in a week was extremely unreasonable, to put it mildly.
Fortunately, the organisers have themselves said such a schedule can't be repeated.
The desire to maximise the FIFA window for international games is well understood. But CFU organisers will have to be more innovative in the future.
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