Full alert for the 'second half' as well as months and years ahead
Leon Bailey (Photo: NaphtaliJunior)

It seems fair to say that had the Reggae Boyz been more efficient they would have had at least a share of the points against Canada in their Concacaf Nations League quarter-final clash in Kingston on Saturday morning.

Jamaica's senior national football team paid the price for missed chances going down 1-2 to the Canadians.

That said, the result wasn't a surprise given the surge in the standard of football played by Canada's men in recent years and their showing at the FIFA World Cup in Qatar a year ago.

Readers will recall that Saturday morning's game was postponed from the previous evening after flood rains, which caused extensive damage in eastern and central Jamaica, left the National Stadium field under water.

How players bounce back from Saturday's exertions for their return game in Toronto, Canada, on Tuesday evening may well determine the tie.

Also, the Jamaicans were without some key players in critical positions because of injuries and illness. Speedy recoveries would bring relief for Head Coach Mr Heimir Hallgrímsson and his technical staff.

The burden will be even greater for the Jamaicans since the away goal rule will apply as a tiebreak.

Of interest for older ones among us — who readily recall when Jamaica's national team was made up entirely of locally-based, semi-pro, and amateur players — cold weather in Canada is unlikely to be a major issue Tuesday night.

That's because Reggae Boyz squads nowadays routinely comprise professionals who ply their trade in northern climes — Europe and North America.

Indeed, after travelling to feared high-altitude Mexico City to earn a draw earlier this year, the players are very possibly backing themselves to go one better against the Canadians in their backyard.

We applaud the position taken by Mr Hallgrimsson that the Toronto leg should be seen as the second half of a game.

"The only thing I told them after the [first leg] game [in Kingston] is that, 'It's half-time'," Mr Hallgrimsson told journalists in his post-match press conference.

"How we… prepare for the next game, or the second half, which is in Canada, that starts now. That's the only thing we can do now, is focus on the next one. This one is finished. Of course, everyone is disappointed to lose at home... People show it in different ways, but we just need to focus now on how we can get ready for the second half, which is in Canada," he said.

Beyond the current campaign, the main goal up ahead is qualification for the 2026 FIFA World Cup in North America.

As World Cup hosts, USA, Canada, and Mexico won't be among those vying for places in upcoming Concacaf qualifiers. That leaves Jamaica along with others such as Cuba, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Panama, Trinidad and Tobago, et al, battling for places at the 'big dance' in 2026.

We note that among first-leg Nations League quarter-final games, Panama travelled to San Jose, Costa Rica, to thump their hosts 3-0 and Honduras stunned visiting Mexico 2-0 in Tegucigalpa.

The available evidence suggests the road to 2026 won't be straightforward. Jamaica's national football programme will need to be on full alert.

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