B is for benefits - Positives found by local football fraternity in Concacaf Nations League B
Jamaica’s Reggae Boyz have established themselves as the dominant force in Concacaf Nations League B after four games played. The Theodore ‘Tappa’ Whitmore-coached team is the only outfit in the B League with a perfect record, having won all four games, scoring 18 goals and conceding none, and the Jamaicans’ run has lifted them two places to 45th in the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking.
However, many still argue that playing the Nations League B has very little developmental value for the team and players. But local coaches Rudolph Speid, of Cavalier, and Andrew Price, of Humble Lion, and football administrator and analyst Clyde Jureidini beg to differ.
Speid, Price and Jureidini say that playing weaker opponents in the Nations League has assisted in exposing young players and has helped them make a smoother transition into the senior team. They also believe it has given the team time to develop its attacking game and has strengthened its morale.
Speid said that football experts believe that for a team to develop and progress, it should play teams equal to itself 50 per cent of the time, teams below itself 25 per cent, and teams superior to itself 25 per cent.
“So to say you are not playing anybody and not learning anything is not true,” he said. “Because we are playing lower teams, ‘Tappa’ gives the local players an opportunity. If we were playing the top teams, local players wouldn’t get any look in and get experience, so it benefits the local players.”
Speid said that in the long term, Jamaica’s top-50 world ranking status, mixed with the consistent exposure of young local talent, will lead to greater returns for individuals who will now qualify automatically to play in major leagues across Europe, which will, in turn, benefit players and the national team.
“To play in England, your country has to be ranked 50 or up over three years, so any player that is to get a contract there has to play in the national team and play 75 per cent of the games, and some of our local players are getting their chance and will now get an opportunity to go overseas,” he said. “But the downside is that we don’t get to play a lot of high-level competition, but that’s okay. I am sure when we get around to qualifying for the World Cup they will have practice games against top teams.”
Price says the Nations League B has been good exposure for young local players as it has prepared them for the challenges to come against tougher teams.
“Sometimes you have to take two steps back to move forward, and I believe we found that in this process. We didn’t want to play in League B, but it benefited us, and now, we could qualify for League A, where we will play much tougher teams.
“But we have to give the youngsters experience, and at least you didn’t throw them in the deep end against USA and Canada,” Price said. “When they [have played] enough of these teams and play the entire League B, they will be more than ready to play the hexagonal (final FIFA World Cup qualifying round of six teams) and the Nations League. So it’s good preparation for them for the hard games ahead of us.”
Jureidini says it has given Jamaica some breathing room to develop their team spirit and attacking game after relying on defence and counter-attack for some time.
“We have to develop a good team spirit and a good balance between our strong defence and counter-attacking, which served us well in the Gold Cups, and our attacking style so we can have a better all-round team so when we go up against the top teams in Concacaf, we can get more consistent good results, as we have been showing over the last few years.
“We have to balance the defensive side and counter-attacking with our new attack and the team spirit that we have built up so when it comes to bigger games, we can perform better,” Jureidini said.
Jamaica’s final Nations League B games take place away to Antigua and Barbuda on Friday, November 15, then at home to Guyana three days later.
P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Jamaica 4 4 0 0 18 0 18 12
2 Guyana 4 2 0 2 7 7 0 6
3 Antigua and Barbuda 4 2 0 2 5 13 -8 6
4 Aruba 4 0 0 4 1 11 -10 0