Now it's World Cup qualification for the Reggae Boyz
Sporting The EDGEThursday, July 29, 2021
I should have been more disappointed and upset with the Reggae Boyz' early exit from the Concacaf Gold Cup campaign on Sunday night; beaten by a young, inexperienced United States team in their quarter-final game in Texas.
It was the first time the Reggae Boyz had been eliminated from the continental championships since 2011 and while losing back-to-back games, by 1-0 margins, to teams we should have beaten, Costa Rica and the USA, there is bigger fish to fry.
The World Cup qualifying starts in exactly 35 days when we play Mexico away and that should be the focus this year, qualifying for the World Cup in Qatar next year.
It's been 23 years since the Reggae Boyz qualified for the World Cup in France and arguably, this year is the best chance since then of returning to the bright lights and the first time since qualifying for the 2014 World Cup that we have got to the final round.
The Reggae Boyz have been able to attract a number of better than average players with links to the island and who play in professional leagues including the Premier League in England and Whitmore will have the best collection of talent he has ever had.
With a spot at the World Cup available then everything else, even the Gold Cup, must take second place to the preparation for what no doubt will be a tough final round of qualifying.
Obviously the USA, who have a much better chance of qualifying for the World Cup, after missing out in 2018 in Russia as they sent out a mostly youthful team from which maybe only a few will get into the squad when the final round of qualifying starts.
In the same vein, all the friendly internationals when we return to play after the break forced on us by COVID-19 and the Gold Cup has to serve one purpose — that is to give Whitmore a chance to see who will make his squad for that final push towards qualification.
With the exception of Mexico (my pick to win the Gold Cup) and the USA, the other one-and-a-half spots from Concacaf will be a straight fight between the next six nations and Jamaica must be one of the teams with a leg up.
One thing is abundantly clear and it's that we are going to need goal scorers and two decent holding midfield players if we are to make any impression in the final round.
Even while dominating possession, the Jamaican strikers had problems finding the goal and this could be Whitmore's biggest headache if he is to banish the memories of our worst Gold Cup in a decade and write a new chapter in Jamaica's football and sporting history.