Talented Reggae Boyz paid the price for poor preparation
Jamaica's forward Shamar Nicholson (right) attempts to latch onto the ball as United States defender Miles Robinson (centre) looks on during the Concacaf Gold Cup quarter-final football match at the AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, on Sunday, July 25, 2021.

No matter how talented you are, high-quality preparation is always critical to success in any endeavour.

That's a lesson the management of Jamaica's football programme and the wider Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) should have learnt from the Reggae Boyz' exit from the Concacaf Gold Cup at the quarter-final stage last weekend.

For while Jamaica's squad to the Gold Cup tournament was undoubtedly brimming with talent, the build-up over the last year as the novel coronavirus pandemic held the world in an iron grip was far from ideal.

Friendly international games for the Reggae Boyz in Europe and Japan, which in ideal circumstances would have provided good opportunities for gelling and teamwork, were fraught with problems. Coach Mr Theodore Whitmore repeatedly voiced discontent at never being able to field anywhere near his strongest teams as players dropped out or withdrew for one reason or another.

Those reasons included a pay dispute and complex protocols having to do with travel during the pandemic.

All of that meant that at the Gold Cup there were some professionals from either side of the Atlantic who knew very little about each other.

So, while the Reggae Boyz scored reasonably comfortable victories as expected in the opening round over Suriname and Guadeloupe, they lacked cohesiveness. They improved against Costa Rica — indeed it could be argued that they dominated the traditionally powerful Central Americans even while making basic mistakes like giving the ball away too easily — but missed their goal-scoring chances. They ended up losing 0-1.

Against a youthful but highly talented USA team in the quarter-final, the Reggae Boyz largely matched their hosts but were again inefficient in terms of link-up play and in keeping possession of the ball. Most crucially they again missed their goal-scoring chances. A defensive lapse caused them to concede, again losing 0-1.

From the standpoint of this newspaper, the Reggae Boyz did reasonably well, given the inadequate preparation. We believe the four games played at the Gold Cup gave the coaching staff a much clearer idea of what's available in terms of personnel. This, with an eye to the all-important Concacaf World Cup qualifiers, which begin in early September.

We are of the view that coach Mr Theodore Whitmore and his assistants showed good tactical acumen in their approach. For example, against the classy but aging Costa Ricans, the Reggae Boyz pressed hard. As has been said, they lost only because of profligacy in front their opponents' goal. By contrast, against the young, pacy Americans they were much more conservative — the right approach, we think.

We note considerable dismay in the football fraternity at the Reggae Boyz' elimination in their quarter-final match.

We believe the JFF, coaches, players, supporters and all stakeholders need to quickly shake their disappointment and look to correct weaknesses and reinforce strengths ahead of the World Cup qualifiers. This newspaper is convinced that this Jamaica squad is good enough to reach the Fifa World Cup tournament in Qatar next year, provided all the right things are done.

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