Thu | Oct 21, 2021

Now or never for Boyz

Jamaica face Honduras in critical WCQ

Published:Wednesday | October 13, 2021 | 12:11 AMAudley Boyd/Gleaner Writer
Head coach Theodore Whitmore (centre background) exits the field and heads down the tunnel at the National Stadium following the 0-0 finish in the Jamaica vs Canada  World Cup qualifier on Sunday, October 10, 2021.
Head coach Theodore Whitmore (centre background) exits the field and heads down the tunnel at the National Stadium following the 0-0 finish in the Jamaica vs Canada World Cup qualifier on Sunday, October 10, 2021.
Jamaica’s Junior Flemmings (centre) is tackled by Doneil Henry (left) and Alistair Johnston of Canada during Sunday’s FIFA World Cup qualifying match at the National Stadium. The match ended 0-0.
Jamaica’s Junior Flemmings (centre) is tackled by Doneil Henry (left) and Alistair Johnston of Canada during Sunday’s FIFA World Cup qualifying match at the National Stadium. The match ended 0-0.
Jamaican defender Oneil Fisher (left) challenges Canada’s Alphonso Davies during a FIFA World Cup qualifier between the two teams at the National Stadium on Sunday, October 10, 2021. The match ended 0-0.
Jamaican defender Oneil Fisher (left) challenges Canada’s Alphonso Davies during a FIFA World Cup qualifier between the two teams at the National Stadium on Sunday, October 10, 2021. The match ended 0-0.
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BIDDING to keep their dreams alive for the Qatar 2022 World Cup Finals, Jamaica’s senior men’s national football team needs points, and they need them fast.

Against Honduras, the Reggae Boyz get another opportunity to improve their lowly standing and get into the Concacaf race. Now, they lie bottom of the standings with two points, one less than seventh-place Honduras, who are themselves desperately seeking points to revitalise their chances.

Their clash is scheduled to kick off at 7:05 this evening at the Estadio Olimpico Metropolitano in San Pedro Sula, Honduras.

The top three in Concacaf will automatically advance to Qatar and the fourth-place finisher gets a second shot in an intercontinental play-off.

With Mexico leading on 11 points, Panama and the United States tied at second on eight and Canada fourth on seven points, the Reggae Boyz’s mandate is clear.

“Put away anybody that we’re going to play next,” Merron Gordon, the team’s assistant coach, said yesterday..

“Based on the situation that we’re in, our next game is very critical,” he continued. “Honduras are in a similar position and they’re struggling like us, but that’s not what we’re thinking about, we’re concentrating on us and what we can do. So we’re going out there to fight for three points.”

Honduras won the first six of their head-to-head confrontations with Jamaica, until the 1993 Concacaf Gold Cup when the Caribbean side started shifting the scales. And in their last two matches, Jamaica ran out with a 3-2 win in the 2019 Concacaf Gold Cup and 1-0 in a 2017 friendly international.

Honduras has been a torrid battleground for Jamaica in Concacaf World Cup qualifying, none more so than in 1998 when Jamaica historically qualified for its only senior World Cup Finals appearance.

DRUMS AND HORNS

Jamaica’s team was handed a cow pasture to train on the day before the game and shortly after midnight, hundreds of Hondurans gathered outside the Jamaica team hotel – right under the players’ windows – and created a noisy setting with drums and horns. The players, then coach Rene Simoes and Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) president, the late Captain Horace Burrell, got into a very physical confrontation with the gathering, with punches landing either way, until police came and cleared the area.

The abuse continued on match day with spectators pitch side hurling bags with urine at players and anyone Jamaican-looking who walked close to the lower deck of the stands. The match itself was a dogfight, contrasting completely to the 3-0 shut-out Jamaica registered at its National Stadium in Kingston.

At the final whistle in San Pedro Sula, the score was 0-0. This time, however, that scoreline does not seem feasible for the Reggae Boyz, whose campaign this trip lacks the organisation and smooth preparation 20-odd years past. Late drafting, late pull-outs, injuries, you name it, everything that probably could have gone wrong is going wrong to the point where the squad is short of numbers.

This has happened for the past two games in this October FIFA window.

In spite of all this, the Jamaica team responded admirably in their last game on Sunday, at home against a very organised Canada team, and created enough chances to have won.

Most importantly, the team did not concede a goal, which was a big plus for head coach Theodore Whitmore, who stated in the post-match presser that they will be looking to “build on that performance” .

In four prior games this Hexagonal, the Jamaica team had defended badly and conceded eight goals – a two-per-game average.

The Reggae Boyz showed a lot of guts and determination with Adrian Mariappa and Alvas Powell, then Je-Vaughn Watson when pulled back to central defence, having outstanding input, along with central midfielder Anthony Grant, who had an excellent two-way game.

Much will rest on these players again, except Powell who was ruled out of the trip with an injury. His place will be taken by regular centre half, Damion Lowe, who missed the last game due to yellow-card accumulation.

HUNTING GOALS

Devon ‘Speedie’ Williams seems to have a good understanding with Grant so their partnership may be renewed from opening whistle, where Shamar Nicholson, plus any among Kemar Roofe, Anthony Gray and Co. will be hunting goals.

Creative Tyreek Magee is also among the group but his selection is questionable for reasons seemingly related more to attitude than skill.

Roofe, who has played three times for Jamaica, said it has been a difficult transition for not only himself, but the team.

“Personally, I came away from the game (Canada) happy because of the way we played, but also disappointing for me personally because I could have and should have scored. But we showed good signs, good togetherness,” he said.

“But it’s also difficult because the team keeps changing, there’s not a lot of consistency, we don’t get to train often because of all the different rules, like COVID-19, some players can’t travel for personal reasons, some players can’t travel because of injuries, so it’s difficult for the management, the coaching staff to get a group of players on a consistent basis and work with them,” Roofe explained.

For today’s game, the striker said: “I think the minimum is what we produced against Canada, the togetherness and the running, the toughness, the aggression we showed and then we just need to add a bit of extra quality in front of the goal to score more goals.”

Honduras lost the last match 0-3 to Mexico on Sunday.

audley.boyd@gleanerjm.com