A look at Jamaica's chances in reaching the 2014 World Cup in Rio Beazil by Reggae Boyz columnist and sports reporter Simon Preston
On July 30th, the draw for the Qualification for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil took place for all the confederations. As all of us were on the forum, we were mainly interested on how the CONCACAF qualifiers would take place and how it would go. The draw went according to the rankings of March 2011, from those rankings, Jamaica was 4th in the region and would be seeded 2nd in the 3rd round groups. So whatever happened, Jamaica would have to either face the USA, Mexico or Honduras.
The draw was taken and Jamaica ended up in a group with our old foes USA and potentially Haiti and Guatemala based on the 2nd round groups that they have, as they are the strongest teams on paper in there group. On paper, we have received a descent group. It is by no means a walkover but it is not as tough as the other two groups, which appear to be group of deaths.
Another group could end up being Mexico, Costa Rica, Trinidad and El Salvador, a group that all four teams made it to the final round of qualifying for South Africa 2010. This is the 1st time I have seen Trinidad in what I consider to be a group of death. Could Jack Warner have played a part in that? Maybe. The other group looks like a nail bitter with Honduras, Panama, Canada and Cuba. Honduras and Canada potentially meeting again for the 3rd in a row at this stage of qualification.
To reach the final round of qualifying, the job is to finish as the top two in the group. That is something Jamaica should and needs to do. Jamaica has the depth in the team, a competent coach who learns from his experience and beside him there is the Gamma family to offer meaningful support. This time next year, we will kick off qualification.
If Haiti does advance, it will be a game the Jamaicans will hope to enjoy as the stats show that Jamaica is unbeaten vs Haiti for 27 years now, they would have to look back to 1984. But we should not take the Haitians lightly as the crop of players Haiti produced and exposed on the world stage at the 2007 U-17 World Cup in Korea are starting to bloom.
Some names that ring a bell are the likes of Joespeh Junior and Peterson Desrivieres. In the recent past also Haiti has proven to be a very unpredictable team. They will get shock defeats against lower ranked Caribbean Teams but when they play Jamaica they always play at 150 percent. In Kingston and Port au Prance or Miami, it will be tough games but Jamaica should get victories.
Guatemala is a team that has not given us too much problems in the past. They have never beaten us at the senior level and we have to make sure this continues. Recently, our defense did a solid job locking down Carlos Ruiz and keeping Marco Pappa at bay. Their defense has been known for ball watching and we can use this to our advantage. We have to be very careful on set pieces however as Guatemala is very accurate getting on target with free kicks. Maximum points are needed by Jamaica here.
How fitting would it be to beat the USA in World Cup qualifiers? One thing we must not do is not having a 3 v 1 where USA's wide players play narrow as interiors and give our wingback difficulties resulting in a huge overload in the centre of the midfield which the USA flooded in the Gold Cup. This problem needs to be sorted. A 4-4-2 could work or a 5-3-2 if coach Tappa Whitmore likes to. But I believe our 12th man needs to step up more than ever. This could be the difference between getting our 1st victory vs USA at the senior level or settling out another goaless draw.
It’s time for a renaissance in Jamaican football. We are out of the wilderness and we are only looking forward. Brazil 2014, we are on our way!
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