Beaten but not disgraced... Reggae Boyz can hold their heads high
Argentina’s Lionel Messi (centre) controls the ball between Jamaica’s Damion Lowe (left) and Adrian Mariappa during the international friendly football match between Argentina and Jamaica at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey, on September 27, 2022. (Photo: AFP)

Jamaican football fans knew that a heavy defeat was possible, even likely, as the Reggae Boyz got set earlier this week to face two-time Fifa World Cup winners and five-time finalists Argentina at the Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey.

Nonetheless, as the Friendly International entered its dying minutes, with Argentina only 1-0 up, hope stirred that the Jamaicans could keep defeat to that slenderest of margins or even stun the football world with a late equaliser.

However, the living legend, Mr Lionel Messi, now 35 years old, a second-half substitute, dazzled as Jamaican legs grew weary to score twice and ensure an emphatic 3-0 victory for his country.

It meant Argentina had extended their unbeaten run in international football to 35 games and further 'concretised' their status as one of the favourites to take the Fifa World Cup title in Qatar later this year.

More to the point from a Jamaican perspective, the result meant that there was no dream start to the tenure of new head coach, Icelander Mr Heimir Hallgrimsson, who had just two training sessions with his players before meeting the South American powerhouse.

Given all the circumstances, we are inclined to agree with Mr Hallgrimsson and president of the Jamaica Football Federation Mr Michael Ricketts that the game was encouraging, overall, for the Reggae Boyz.

For sure, it was a baptism by fire as this newspaper's post-game headline asserted, but the Jamaica national team was not disgraced. Indeed, the players held their own admirably for long periods. We believe they earned the right to walk away with their heads held high and smiles on their faces.

Crucially, as they look down the long road towards qualification for the Fifa World Cup in 2026, the game provided Mr Hallgrimsson and his staff an early opportunity to assess individual players against top-level opposition in difficult circumstances.

We agree with the coach that while there is much work to be done, "there is a lot to build on" and that "it was a good effort from the players... they gave it their all".

We are told that the next assignment for Mr Hallgrimsson will be another tough one. In November, he will travel to Africa with a Jamaica team comprised of local-based players — in the absence of overseas professionals — to face World Cup-bound Cameroon.

The date of that International Friendly, November 9, is not sanctioned by Fifa for international football which is why overseas pros who played against Argentina will be unavailable — bound to their clubs in Europe and elsewhere.

Cameroon, a giant in African football with a proud record in Fifa World Cup competitions, will also be without their overseas professionals for the same reason.

As explained by Mr Ricketts, the friendly against Cameroon will allow local players to show their worth to the new coach. We know that for many young footballers now active in Jamaica the fire of ambition is burning. We wish them well.

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