HEAD Coach Marcel ‘’Fuzzy’’ Gayle struck a positive tone even as he admitted disappointment at Jamaica falling short of qualifying for the 2023 Fifa Under-20 men’s World Cup in Indonesia.
With one of four regional qualifying spots on the line, the Jamaicans lost 0-1 to Dominican Republic after Angel Montes De Oca’s early strike during the quarter-finals of the 2022 Concacaf Under-20 Championship in Honduras on Wednesday.
While it was a painful exit for the young Reggae Boyz, hardly any Jamaican football fan would argue that Dominican Republic weren’t better on the day.
The Jamaican team appeared hamstrung by lack of cohesiveness on the pitch, with limited preparation ahead of the tournament identified as the main reason. The squad was said to have had nine players based in the United Kingdom and North America, throwing the spotlight on the chemistry within the group.
“We are all disappointed, but we will learn,” Gayle told the Jamaica Observer on Friday.
“Under the circumstances I thought the young guys represented the country well, I thought it was a good experience for them, a team mixed with local and overseas players. In a short turnaround time I thought they handled the situation well.
“But more emphasis needs to be placed on getting things (preparation) done in a timely manner, but we are not complaining and this is the future going forward. I think we have a bright future in front of us, we just need to spend a little bit more time developing these kids. There are positives of having these youngsters at our disposal now to put the right things in place going forward,” he said.
During the group stage of the championship, Jamaica ended 1-1 with Costa Rica, then while playing a man down for the entire second half, were swept aside 0-5 in wet and soggy conditions by hosts Honduras.
However, the Under-20 Boyz defeated Antigua and Barbuda 2-0 in the final group match to advance to the round of 16, edging nine-man Haiti 2-1 in unconvincing fashion, before falling to the Dominican Republic. Striker Jahmari Clarke was Jamaica’s top scorer, hitting three of their five goals.
By contrast, the Dominican Republic team reached the championship after competing in qualifiers last November. Having progressed from that qualifying tournament, they were among four teams — the others were Curacao, Nicaragua and Puerto Rico — to receive a bye to the Concacaf Championship’s round of 16.
Dominican Republic then outscored El Salvador 5-4 in a thrilling quarter-final contest.
“More time, as always, [we] would have built more chemistry, more understanding and so on. But… our reality and circumstances are different from other countries, so I think the [Jamaica Football] Federation has done probably all they could have done with the resources around the programme,” Gayle explained.
“If certain things had been in place, I mean tactically you could have mixed and patched [problems] during the games at times. But I’m not complaining, as I said, these kids are really committed, they really should have [qualified], but I think they played their best and I think they will learn from this experience and they will get better going forward,” he continued.
The Under-20 men’s coach told the Observer there were some high points coming out of the failed campaign.
“Jemone Barclay, this would have been his first international experience, and [Romain] Blake, [Lamonth] Rochester, [and] Luis Watson.
“So it’s a good feat for these kids to play football at the highest level in their age group and we know that we were just 90 minutes away, and with a little bit more concentration [Jamaica could have qualified], which is something we learn [from] at times.
“But it was a very successful tour even though we didn’t achieve the ultimate goal, which is going to the World Cup,” Gayle, who coaches locally at Waterhouse FC, said.
The Dominican Republic are through to Sunday’s Concacaf Championship final after beating Gautemala 4-2 in penalty shoot-out on Friday. The Guatemalans had gone up 2-0 in the first half before Dominican Republic scored twice in the second half to force extra-time and penalties.
They are to face back-to-back regional Under-20 champions United States, who beat Honduras 3-0 in the other semi-final.