Wed | Aug 4, 2021

No margin for error

Lowe warns that complacency could be costly in World Cup-qualifying campaign

Published:Monday | June 21, 2021 | 12:06 AMDaniel Wheeler/Staff Reporter
Jamaica’s Damion Lowe (right) and Panama’s Gabriel Torres battle for the ball during the first half of a Concacaf Gold Cup match in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in June 2019.
Jamaica’s Damion Lowe (right) and Panama’s Gabriel Torres battle for the ball during the first half of a Concacaf Gold Cup match in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in June 2019.
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National defender Damion Lowe says that Jamaica must avoid complacency in their FIFA World Cup qualifiers later this year. El Salvador, Canada, and Panama won their second-round ties on Tuesday, joining the Reggae Boyz, the United States, Honduras...

National defender Damion Lowe says that Jamaica must avoid complacency in their FIFA World Cup qualifiers later this year.

El Salvador, Canada, and Panama won their second-round ties on Tuesday, joining the Reggae Boyz, the United States, Honduras, Costa Rica, and Mexico in the eight-team, final-round tournament, which is scheduled for September 2. Concacaf changed the format of the final round from its traditional six-team, round-robin competition because of COVID-19-related delays.

With the last three teams now decided, Lowe says that the strength of the group will demand strong performances on a consistent basis if they are to end a two-decade wait for another World Cup finals appearance.

“To be honest, the Concacaf final round has always been known to be very competitive, so anything is possible. So teams just have to prepare properly,” Lowe told The Gleaner. “El Salvador, Panama, Canada — they are good teams, quality teams, so we can’t take anything for granted. No game is ever an easy game in Concacaf, so we have to go out there and do our best.”

Jamaica will open against Mexico in Estadio Azteca in Mexico City. However, the game will be played without fans because of sanctions brought by FIFA against the Mexican Federation for discriminatory chants by its fans during matches in March. As a result, the next two home games for Mexico will be played behind closed doors.

NO CROWD ADVANTAGE

But Lowe says even with the absence of the crowd advantage for the Mexicans, it is still up to Jamaica to get a favourable result.

“You still have to get the job done on the field,” he said. “For us, we just have to go out there and execute our game plan properly. We know Mexico is a very experienced team with high-profile players, but we are a good team also and I know that we can get the job done.”

The Mexico opener begins a seven-game stretch that sees Jamaica play five of their first seven games away from home. Former Reggae Boy Paul Davis says that despite the seemingly rough start, it could prove to be beneficial as there will be no opportunities for the team to relax.

“This could be a blessing in disguise for us,” he said. “It’s nice when you go out there and challenge yourself. That means that you are going to put out more.

“You are not just going to be reluctant or get complacent because you are going to be on the road.”

The Reggae Boyz played three consecutive away games in their first five fixtures in their 1998 qualifying campaign, which was successful. Their latest campaign will require them to play a maximum of three games per international window. Jamaica will only have two home games in their first seven fixtures, against Panama on September 5, and Canada on October 10.

The top three teams will gain automatic entry to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, while the fourth-place team will contest a continental play-off for the last spot.

daniel.wheeler@gleanerjm.com

Sept 2 - Mexico (Away)

Sept 5 - Panama (Home)

Sept 8 - Costa Rica (Away)

Oct 7 - United States (Away)

Oct 10 - Canada (Home)

Oct 13 - Honduras (Away)

*Nov - El Salvador (Away)

*Nov - United States (Home)

Jan 27 - Mexico (Home)

Jan 30 - Panama (Away)

Feb 2 - Costa Rica (Home)

Mar 24 - El Salvador (Home)

Mar 27 - Canada (Away)

Mar 30 - Honduras (Home)

*Exact dates to be determined