Mon | Jun 14, 2021

‘Jamaica are no dark horses’

Concacaf president gives Reggae Boyz realistic chance of Gold Cup glory

Published:Friday | April 9, 2021 | 12:19 AMRachid Parchment - Assistant Sports Editor
Jamaica’s Shamar Nicholson (foreground), dribbles ahead of Honduran player Emilio Izaguirre in their Concacaf Gold Cup match held at the National Stadium on June 18, 2019.
Jamaica’s Shamar Nicholson (foreground), dribbles ahead of Honduran player Emilio Izaguirre in their Concacaf Gold Cup match held at the National Stadium on June 18, 2019.

Concacaf President Victor Montagliani (right) talks with Jamaica goalkeeper Andre Blake after the United States beat Jamaica 2-1 in the Gold Cup final soccer match in Santa Clara, California, on Wednesday, July 26, 2017.
Concacaf President Victor Montagliani (right) talks with Jamaica goalkeeper Andre Blake after the United States beat Jamaica 2-1 in the Gold Cup final soccer match in Santa Clara, California, on Wednesday, July 26, 2017.
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Concacaf President Victor Montagliani says Jamaica has a realistic chance of winning the Gold Cup tournament this summer. The Reggae Boyz lost to Mexico 3-1 in the 2015 final under then head coach Winfried Schäfer. Then a 2-1 loss to the United...

Concacaf President Victor Montagliani says Jamaica has a realistic chance of winning the Gold Cup tournament this summer.

The Reggae Boyz lost to Mexico 3-1 in the 2015 final under then head coach Winfried Schäfer. Then a 2-1 loss to the United States of America (USA) two years later saw them finish as runners-up once more. That was under current head coach Theodore Whitmore.

The team then exited the tournament at the semi-final stage in 2019.

With the next staging of the Gold Cup set for July, Jamaica, now ranked third in Concacaf and 45th in the world, are considered by many as outsiders to win the tournament, behind favourites Mexico and USA, but Montagliani does not see the Reggae Boyz as mere dark horses.

“Not to me, not the Concacaf president,” Montagliani told The Gleaner in an exclusive interview. “I think Jamaica has an outstanding coach. I’m a big fan of the coach. He’s done a tremendous job.

“With a bit of luck, he should’ve won one of those two Gold Cup finals. In one of them (against the USA), they were the better team, just unfortunately, (Goalkeeper Andre) Blake got hurt, which didn’t help.”

Montagliani has been mindful of the changes taking place in the national team, with the Jamaica Football Federation aggressively scouting England-based players to strengthen the squad ahead of the Gold Cup and FIFA World Cup qualifiers in September.

“Jamaica, to me, is one of our top teams,” he said. “Listen, any of our top teams can win the Gold Cup. Of course, you know Mexico will be strong, and the US will be strong, but I don’t see Jamaica as being second fiddle to anybody. I think they have the talent, I think they have the coach, and I think if they apply themselves, as they have in the last few Gold Cups, there’s no reason why they can’t be back in the final because I think they have the players.

“The players now that are being attracted to play for Jamaica, I think their talent level has increased even more than it was in the last two Gold Cups. If they come together, I have no reason to think that they can’t be one of the favourites. And I think the attitude should be that by Jamaica because they deserve to have that attitude.”

Concacaf also announced yesterday that preliminary-round matches in the Gold Cup will take place at Inter Miami CF Stadium in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

South Florida is known for its large demographic of Hispanic and West Indian expatriates, which the regional governing body may see as advantageous as it is looking to have fans at games this summer. But Montagliani admits that it depends on the rate of COVID-19 vaccination taking place in the area leading up to the competition.

“I’m confident we will have fans,” he said. “We have to work with the local authorities on [working out] exactly what the percentage of the stadium we will be able to sell tickets for because that’s a bit of a moving target. We’re sitting here in April, and these games are played in July, and the rate of vaccination in the US, specifically Florida, is quite high, and I’m confident we will be in a good position to have a significant amount of fans at the stadium, but we will work with the authorities along the way.”

As of April 7, 11.1 million doses of vaccine have been administered in Florida, with 4.11 million persons, or 19.1 per cent of the population, being fully vaccinated.

Jamaica have been placed in Group C of the Gold Cup with Costa Rica and Suriname and the winner of preliminary match eight.

rachid.parchment@gleanerjm.com