Jamaica's Reggae Boyz won't be in the final four of the Concacaf Nation's League elite group when competition resumes in mid-year.
That's following their 2-2 draw with Mexico at the famous Azteca, in high altitude Mexico City last weekend. The draw meant hosts Mexico topped their qualifying group to advance, leaving behind Jamaica and Suriname.
The consolation for the Reggae Boyz is that second place ensured qualification to the Concacaf Gold Cup.
It's testament to prior expectations that instead of disappointment at the draw with Mexico, there is optimism for Jamaica's football.
For most Jamaican football followers long used to defeat in Mexico, the result was good. Now, having watched as the Reggae Boyz stayed toe-to-toe with their hosts for the entire game, those fans will be harbouring higher expectations next time around.
A Jamaica national team has never won in the Azteca and has never scored more than once, previously. Mr Bobby Reid's spectacular eighth-minute strike, which gave the visitors an early lead, made him only the fifth player to score for Jamaica in the famous stadium.
Jamaican footballers are not the only ones to have struggled in Mexico City. That's because of its high altitude and resultant thin air. Mexico's capital city is about 2,240 metres (well in excess of 7,000 feet) above sea level. Those not accustomed to thin air can get seriously disoriented and may even suffer altitude sickness.
There is a psychological aspect, since mere fear of the conditions can cause problems. To the credit of the Jamaican footballers and their support staff, there was no evidence of fear in the Azteca on Sunday night.
Given all of the above we have to agree with Head Coach Mr Heimir Hallgrimsson and others that the Reggae Boyz should not only reach the FIFA World Cup in 2026, they should be able to "do good things" there.
Confidence is reinforced by the reality that Mexico, United States, and Canada will qualify automatically since they will be co-hosts of the World Cup tournament.
That means, perceived lesser lights — including Jamaica, Costa Rica, Honduras, El Salvador, Panama, Guatemala, Haiti, Trinidad and Tobago among others — will be battling for three places with the possibility of additional play-off spots.
Of course, as Jamaicans know, getting to the senior men's FIFA World Cup is much easier said than done. After that historic qualification in 1998, very few people would have expected that 25 years later, that feat is yet to be repeated.
Among the lessons learnt in the intervening years is that World Cup qualification requires much more than effort on the field.
During the qualification phase in the late 1990s, the Reggae Boyz mostly won at home in the National Stadium. That provided invaluable cushion for difficult away games.
That winning habit at home is how the National Stadium came to be dubbed 'The Office'. The winning habit on home soil has eroded down the years, largely, we think, because of a downscaling in the number of international home games organised for the Reggae Boyz.
We know home 'friendlies' against international teams are expensive, but if we are to recover that winning habit at The Office that investment will be needed.
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