By Gregory Bryce
The draw for the CONCACAF 2021 Gold Cup draw has come and gone, and from a Jamaican perspective, it seems to be a more favorable draw for the Reggae Boyz. With the level of opposition that we have been fated to compete against, there should be an air of confidence in the Jamaican camp.
Drawn in Group C, Jamaica will be joined by the likes of Costa Rica, Suriname and one of the four teams now slated for the ‘Prelim 8’ path – that is, either Guatemala, Guyana, Guadelope or the Bahamas. Jamaica is expected to enter Group C as one of the favorites to advance to the knockout stages.
Defending champions Mexico are the favorites to advance from Group A, where they have been drawn along the likes of El Salvador, Curaçao and the winners of the ‘Prelim 9’ match which will be either Trinidad and Tobago, Monsterrat, Cuba or the French Guiana. Trinidad’s participation, however, will depend on whether their suspension will be lifted by FIFA before December 18. If not, then their spot will be given to Antigua and Barbuda.
Last year’s runner-up, USA, will have a strong opposition in the form of Canada, who has been drawn along them in Group B. Martinique is the other country who has been drawn in that group with the winners of the ‘Prelim 7’ path (Haiti, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Bermuda or Barbados).
Group D rounds off the competition as the only group to have all four teams already decided. In that group, special invitee Qatar will tackle group favorites Honduras, Panama and Grenada.
History Favours the Boyz…
After watching the draw and seeing the teams that the Reggae Boyz will be facing in the group stages of the Gold Cup, I am confident that this would be one of the most favorable draws that the team could have hoped for.
The talent at the disposal of Theodore Whitmore, the head coach of the Reggae Boyz, should be enough to see the team making it to, at least, the quarter-final stages of the competition.
Jamaica has built a solid reputation of making it past the group stages of the more recent Gold Cup tournaments, with a semifinalist appearance in 2019 after two consecutive finals appearances in 2015 and 2017. In fact, the last time Jamaica failed to advance past the group stage was in 2009. Overall, since the competition’s inception in 1963, Jamaica has failed to make it out of their group only four times.
An additional historical fact that puts the wind in the Jamaican sail is the fact that Suriname, who has been drawn in our group, has only ever beaten the Reggae Boyz twice in their team’s history. The last time they did so was back in 1996, and we would have to travel a further 30 years into the past to see their only other victory over the Boyz.
It must also be taken into consideration that of the four teams now in the preliminary rounds hoping to get the final spot in Group C (Bahamas, Guadeloupe, Guyana, Guatemala), Jamaica has only recorded three losses across all boards against all the teams combined. In fact, of the four, it is only Guatemala who has ever recorded a victory over Jamaica, when they beat the Reggae Boyz in 2012, 1996 and 1992.
It is clear from the statistics that Jamaica has a strong background against most of the teams we are expected to face.
The Team To Beat…
But where we have a proven record against the majority of the teams in our group, the team to beat will no doubt be Costa Rica.
The Central American country is expected to be the first major test for the Jamaican team. The last time we met the Costa Ricans, it ended in a hard fought 2-2 draw between both countries, but that has been one of the better results on paper. Of the last ten meetings between the Reggae Boyz and the ‘Los Ticos’, Jamaica has only recorded one win. It is not the best statistic to have when you will be competing against a team in the upcoming months, but I still have confidence that the Boyz can do the job required of them.
Coach Whitmore is optimistic heading into the preparation phase for the Gold Cup, and I can’t help but feel that this tournament will be one to look out for.
“I am very comfortable with the draw. We just have to get ourselves prepared and look forward to a much better tournament from the previous one.” Whitmore said after the Gold Cup draw. “It’s how we prepare ourselves and what we do when we go out on the pitch and acquit ourselves out there, so we don’t want to look at what we did in 2015, 2017 or 2019. This is 2021; It’s a totally different ball game. Everybody is preparing and everybody is making a mark, and I think CONCACAF has set the platform for teams to play games and everybody will be preparing themselves, so we just have to go out there and be a step ahead at all times.”
Gregory Bryce is a freelance sports journalist.
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