Reggae Boyz will need the fighting spirit of our national heroesSaturday, October 09, 2021
AFTER four games, Jamaica's Reggae Boyz are at the bottom of the Concacaf final-round 2022 Fifa World Cup qualifiers with just one point.
It looks bad.
But as central defender Mr Adrian Mariappa told journalists following the 0-2 loss to hosts United States in Texas on Thursday night, all is not lost.
“Plenty of games left and a lot of points to play for,” Mr Mariappa was heard saying on radio.
The youthful, very impressive Americans are atop the table on eight points. Mexico, many-time World Cup qualifiers, are also on eight points, but they trail the Americans on goal difference. The remainder of the eight-team table shows Canada on six points, Panama (five), El Salvador (five), Costa Rica (three) and Honduras (three), with Jamaica in the cellar.
After 14 home and away games for each team, the top three in this Concacaf tournament will qualify automatically for the Fifa World Cup in Qatar next year. The fourth-place team will face a representative from another confederation for an additional spot on the World Cup stage.
When all is said and done, goal difference could make a big difference. Currently, the Reggae Boyz have scored just two goals with eight against, for an unenviable goal difference of minus six.
In ordinary circumstances, the Reggae Boyz would be taking heart that six of their remaining 10 games are scheduled home fixtures in Kingston. Sadly, however, the current wave of COVID-19 infections, low rate of vaccination in Jamaica, and the Government's refusal so far to allow fans to attend home games, mean the national team is as yet without the advantage provided by home spectator support — the acclaimed “12th man”.
In fact, readers will recall that the worst of Jamaica's three defeats to date — 0-3 to Panama — was their lone home game so far. However, this newspaper believes that dismal, shambolic performance against Panama in early September had little to do with an empty stadium. We think it was largely the result of illogical team selection.
So now, after their loss to the USA in Texas on Thursday night — a result that was by no means a surprise, especially since the hosts were playing in front a packed, partisan crowd — the Jamaicans come home to Kingston for their second home game of the tournament against Canada, tomorrow evening. As was the case in Texas, the Jamaicans will be without a few first-choice players.
The Canadians — young, pacy, highly talented and unbeaten so far in the qualifiers — drew impressively with Mexico in the fortress-like Azteca in Mexico City on Thursday night.
We expect they will be bubbling with confidence tomorrow.
For Jamaica, a win will be of vital importance, not just because of the need for points with a view to Qatar next year, but equally to build morale and self-belief.
We are in October, when Jamaicans celebrate the lives of their national heroes. For those who may have lost track, Jamaica's National Heroes' Day 2021 is on October 18.
The Reggae Boyz will need the fighting spirit and resilience of our renowned national heroes to overcome upcoming hurdles tomorrow, and in the months to come. We wish them well.