Curaçao and El Salvador make up quartet in tough group
Theodore Whitmore got the news that he was no doubt dreading when Jamaica were drawn to tackle Honduras in their CONCACAF Gold Cup tie at Kingston on 17 June.
Although it will be the first time that Jamaica’s Reggae Boyz have played a Gold Cup game on Caribbean soil, following the competition’s expansion to 16 teams this time, Honduras are currently favourites to take the honours.
Yet head coach Whitmore will be aware that should their home fans get behind his side then the Boyz have an excellent opportunity to make the National Stadium erupt with joy and free-flowing football.
But free-flowing play has been severely lacking from the Boyz in recent performances, their most lacklustre display in years saw El Salvador ease to a 2-0 CONCACAF Nations League home win last month in a crucial game.
Jamaica followed that up by being outplayed by an experimental Costa Rica outfit to return from back-to-back games with little dignity and serious cracks showing in their creaking squad.
But better times appear to be ahead for Whitmore’s troops, and the fact that Kingston has been selected to become the inaugural hosts for Gold Cup matches will surely give the Boyz squad a much-needed injection of confidence.
Honduras are the seeded side in Group C for the lucrative biennial Gold Cup competition, which Jamaica have finished runner-up in the past two tournaments.
The Boyz tackle Honduras (8.30pm ko) on 17 June, making up the double-header, and follows the Curaçao-El Salvador contest (6pm ko) in Kingston.
Curaçao are an up-and-coming outfit, with Whitmore only too wary of the danger posed by the disciplined El Salvador team. And as the quartet are on virtually level pegging then it is not a straightforward task to progress for Whitmore.
Jamaica then travel to Los Angeles to tackle Curaçao inside the Banc of California Stadium (7pm ko Jamaican time), with El Salvador against Honduras finalising the group games (8.30pm ko Jamaican time).
These group games comprise of a mini league with the winner and runner-up of each group progressing to the knockout stages. These take place primarily in Canada and the United States, but with the initiative for 2019 of introducing two matches in both the Caribbean and Central America.
Mexico, always considered a serious contender to win the prestigious tournament, should top Group A as the seeded nation and kick-off against Cuba. Canada face Caribbean minnows Martinique in the back-to-back games at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California on 15 June.
Group B features seeded Costa Rica, who will given the opportunity to impress home fans when then play Nicaragua at the Estadio Nacional de Costa Rica in San José as part of the double-header in Central America. First-time entrants Bermuda tackle Haiti in the opening group game on 16 June.
The United States, top seed in Group D, have been given a tricky draw and start off against newcomers Guyana. Panama play against Trinidad & Tobago in the other group game on 18 June.
Should Jamaica, as expected, progress from their group they will head to Philadelphia for a quarter-final clash at the Lincoln Financial Field on 30 June.
If they top the group they face the runner-up from Group D (4.30pm ko Jamaican time), but if they progress as runner-up will tackle the Group D winner (7.30pm ko Jamaican time).
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