Burrell praises Boyz, coaching staff
VINA DE MAR, Chile:
The Reggae Boyz made a statement on the growth of football in the region with their performance at the ongoing Copa America.
This is the view of Captain Horace Burrell, president of the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF), whose team became the first Caribbean outfit to participate in the South American championships.
The Jamaicans, playing in Group B, the Group of Death that included defending champions Uruguay, runners-up Paraguay, and beaten World Cup finalists Argentina, were invited as a guest team at this year's staging of the 2015 tournament in Chile.
They lost all three group matches by 1-0 margins, drawing huge applause and admiration from the crowds for playing well.
"First of all, like every other Jamaican, I'm disappointed that we did not make it to the second round," Burrell told The Gleaner following the team's defeat against Argentina on Saturday.
"On the other hand, I thought we gave it our best shot. And first let me congratulate the players and the coaching staff. I thought they did a fantastic job, and we're leaving here with our heads high.
"Like I said before, it's disappointing not to have made it to the second round, but we also have to understand that this is one of the strongest regions in the world, and to have come here and performed the way we have is truly commendable," Burrell added.
The performance, the JFF boss said, would have lifted the Jamaica team ahead of its next tournament, the CONCACAF Gold Cup, and the World Cup qualifiers that will follow.
"This certainly would have given us a fillip going into the Gold Cup, which is very important to us; that's our Confederation tournament, which we're expected to do well in, and so I believe the coaching staff would've had an opportunity to look at the players and to make the best decision as to the players who will feature in the Gold Cup," he reasoned.
"In addition, we have World Cup qualifiers coming up, and so I think the season for football in Jamaica is at a high point, and we couldn't have asked for more at this time.
Jamaica, the Caribbean champions, defended stubbornly against Argentina, then evolved to take over the game inside the last 20 minutes against a team with the world's best player, Barcelona's Lionel Messi, their captain, plus some of the game's biggest stars like Manchester United's Angel di Maria, Juventus' Carlos Tevez (the Italian champions), and Napoli's Gonzalo Higuain, who scored the winner at the 11th minute.
Victory made Argentina group winners with seven points, while Paraguay finished second with five points and Uruguay four, following their 2-2 finish, also on Saturday. The top two automatically qualify, while Uruguay look certain to advance to the quarter-finals as one of the best third-placed teams.