Kwesi Mugisa, Staff Reporter
Jamaica's Reggae Boyz, defending Caribbean Cup Champions, face the prospect of being embarrassingly dumped out of the tournament before the knockout phase, should they fail to defeat neighbours Cuba at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium tonight.
Following up on a shock 2-1 loss to French Guiana in the opening game with a tame 0-0 draw against Martinique in their second encounter, the Boyz find themselves rooted to the bottom of Group B with one point. Martinique are currently top of the group with four points, followed by Cuba and French Guiana on three points each.
Failure to advance from the group would see the national team miss out on a spot at next year's CONCACAF Gold Cup, the region's premier tournament.
Although at a loss to explain the team's performances so far, Jamaica Football Federation president, Captain Horace Burrell, said they are solely focused on what would be a narrow escape.
"There is no excuse why we should be in this position, our players have a lot more experience. Truth be told, at this point we are not looking at the negatives," Burrell told The Gleaner.
"Our performance has been below par and we have had a team meeting with the staff and looked at our current situation, and we know we must pull out all the stops to do better," he added. "Our current situation is not good and whatever the reason is neither here nor there. We will spare no effort in trying to get back on track."
Missing out on next summer's Gold Cup could have serious consequences for the cash-strapped body. In addition to missing out on valuable match-time against the region's top teams, the team could also miss the opportunity to fill depleted coffers. The federation boss, however, would not speculate on the possible repercussions of failing to qualify for the tournament.
"We would have to look to cross that bridge when we get to it. I would not want to consider the consequences of that right now, we are just looking at what we need to do to progress."
The Jamaicans could progress in second place from the group with a win over Cuba, coupled with a win for Martinique over French Guiana, who will clash in the opening match of today's double-header at 5 p.m. (4 p.m. Jamaica time).
The Reggae Boyz could, however, also progress over Martinique in the event of a win for French Guiana, which would see the team with the better goal difference advance to the next round.
A draw between the teams would, however, knock Jamaica out of the tournament, with head-to-head being the first tiebreaking criterion used, followed by goal difference. That result would enable Martinique to win the group, while a Jamaican win would place them level with French Guiana. However, the team from the Caribbean end of the South American mainland would advance by virtue of having beaten Jamaica.