Simpson says confidence among Boyz now sky high
Manager of Jamaica's national men's senior team, Roy Simpson, says the valuable experience gained in the Copa America and Scotiabank CONCACAF Gold Cup tournaments, has lifted the confidence of the players ahead of the upcoming World Cup qualifications.
Jamaica will engage Nicaragua in a two-way tie for a berth in the CONCACAF group stage. The Reggae Boyz will host the first leg on September 4 and play away four days later. The winners on aggregate will advance to the next stage.
"We came second in the Gold Cup, but that was the end result of work we had put in. We started preparing from the Caribbean Cup in December 2014. We decided that we had to win the Caribbean Cup. And we did that," Simpson, who has been manager of the senior team since 2008 told The Gleaner a few days after losing 3-1 to Mexico in the Gold Cup final in the USA.
Simpson said Jamaica were at a disadvantage in the final stages of the 2014 World Cup qualifiers as while their main opponents were involved in the Gold Cup the Reggae Boyz were idle.
"Coach (Winfried) Sch‰fer came on at that time in the World Cup qualifiers ... from then he decided that if he was with the team he planned to be at the Gold Cup in 2015," Simpson disclosed.
"We were aware that the top-four teams from the Caribbean Cup competition would be at the Gold Cup but we wanted to win the Caribbean Cup. We were already invited to the Copa America, so we thought that it would make our invitation more authentic if we won the Caribbean Cup.
"When we looked at the Copa America, we decided that we could not win the tournament. It was not impossible, but we knew we could not win. So, we decided on how best we can use that experience to buffer us going into the Gold Cup.
"With better luck, we could have got better results and from that backdrop we knew we could have been very competitive in the Gold Cup," he recounted. At the Copa America, Jamaica were beaten 1-0 on three occasions - by Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay.
"I remember at the CONCACAF workshop - after the draw for the Gold Cup zones - coach Sch‰fer said to me that he thought we could win the Gold Cup. Then we felt even more confident when coach Sch‰fer, Captain Burrell (Jamaica Football Federation president) and myself went to meet the overseas players in the United Kingdom. What was really encouraging was the sort of commitment that the players exhibited when we spoke to them about the plans for the senior team.
"They saw it as their responsibility to come and represent Jamaica and give their all," Simpson recalled.
"If you go to the Gold Cup final and are second, then with three and a half spots available in the World Cup from CONCACAF the expectation is that we should be there in Russia in 2018. There are more eyes on us but what we need to understand is that the work gets harder at each step.
"Now with the back to back performances in the three tournaments (Caribbean Cup, Copa and Gold Cup) people will take us seriously again.
"I want the people to continue marking us hard because the harder they mark us the better for the team," Simpson concluded.