Tue | Nov 28, 2023

Leon Bailey rues missed Azteca opportunity

Published:Wednesday | March 29, 2023 | 1:51 AMLivingston Scott/Gleaner Writer

AFTER GETTING his first taste of football in the Azteca, Mexico’s football Mecca, Leon Bailey described the atmosphere as “amazing”, while noting that it is an extremely tough place for any team, largely due to the electric atmosphere their fanatic supporters create inside the football cauldron.

Bailey, who has played 19 games for the Reggae Boyz, scoring three goals, has seen his performances for the national team come in for criticism in recent times.

Nevertheless, the Aston Villa forward, who is used to these types of atmospheres, having played in Germany and England, was still left impressed with what he experienced inside the Azteca.

“For me, it’s the first time being in Mexico. First time playing in the stadium. I think it was an incredible atmosphere. The fans showed great spirit to cheer their team on. That’s a heavy support and I think it helped them a lot today [Sunday],” Bailey told reporters.

The Reggae Boyz surrendered the lead twice and had to settle for a 2-2 draw, in a game they had to win to progress to the final of the Concacaf Nations League.

Although Bailey thought the home fans really played their part as the 12th man, he believed the Reggae Boyz allowed a good opportunity to slip.

“It was a great atmosphere but today was one of them ones that was bittersweet as we came out with the draw.

“We are still looking forward. We can take a lot of positives from today (Sunday). It was a good game from both teams. We showed a lot of character, which has been lacking for some time.

“We could have come out with something but unfortunately we came out with a draw but this is a tough place to come. The stadium is massive; the fans are there for the team from the beginning of the game to the end.

“It is never easy for an away team to come here. It is amazing to play in such an atmosphere and I think the people really love football and love their country,” he said.

Bailey and the Reggae Boyz failed horribly at the last World Cup qualifying campaign and with Mexico, the United States and Canada already qualifying for the 2026 tournament as hosts, Bailey has an optimistic outlook to this cycle.

“We were really grateful that we are able to come here (Azteca) stuck to our game plan and come away with something.

“We have a big opportunity to make the next World Cup. With the US, Canada and Mexico already qualified, it’s a big opportunity for us and we are going to make the most of it but we still have a long way to go.”