Reggae Boyz draw on fringe players against Guyana
Jamaica’s Reggae Boyz wrapped up their highly successful CONCACAF Nations League (CNL) Group C of League B qualification campaign with a hard-fought 1-1 stalemate against Guyana on Monday evening (18 November).
Following the Boyz’ travel fiasco prior to Friday’s 2-0 win over hosts Antigua & Barbuda, it was back to focusing on football in familiar territory of the Montego Bay Sports Complex.
Guyana stunned the hosts on the brink of the half-time whistle when forward Emery Welshman opened the scoring. The 28-year-old, who plies his trade in Israel, took his chance well against an off-guard defence.
After the turnaround the Boyz started to show their mettle, eager to leave an impression and level matters, and on 50 minutes Javon East made the deserved breakthrough.
Head coach Theodore Whitmore shuffled his pack for their final match of the current CNL campaign, against a side who only required a single point to progress further in the new competition.
Yet his decision backfired. He opted to give most of those who failed to play in St. John’s last week a run out, but it became a dull display of attrition with neither side piling on the pressure.
Whitmore’s troops had overpowered Guyana 4-0 in Lenora through two goals a-piece from Dever Orgill and Alvas Powell in September, but this was a different ball game with Guyana keen to snatch at least a point in order to progress with Jamaica from the four-team group.
Marcio Maximo’s Golden Jaguars arrived fresh from their 4-2 home success over minnows Aruba, who have lost every match during their CNL campaign, and confident of joining Jamaica in Group B.
Akeem Chambers had the ignominy of becoming the first goalkeeper to concede in Jamaica’s six CNL games, as the table-topping Boyz failed to make it a perfect campaign following their five successive victories when they banged in 20 goals.
Ricardo Morris, Bobby Reid and Chavany Willis were back in the starting line-up after impressive individual performances last time out, yet the trio never really left the starting blocks and each looked tired as they seemingly went through the motions in a lacklustre encounter.
On paper the Boyz are on the rise with such a formidable record, especially as Whitmore has unearthed some new talent along the way. But the critics remain skeptical as Jamaica’s style of play is not pleasing on the eye, despite Whitmore’s constant tinkering with formats and personnel.
Although by finishing the group unbeaten will have boosted Jamaica’s chances of maintaining their top six place in the CONCACAF region, which guarantees a passage to the final round of qualifying for the 2022 FIFA World Cup scheduled to kick-off next year, the reality of facing stronger teams is on the horizon.
Whitmore has his eyes on bringing in some new faces to improve his squad as well as allow midfield maestro Leon Bailey a more free-roaming role for these World Cup qualifiers. However, Jamaica Footballer Federation president Michael Ricketts claims that they require an annual budget of US$2m to properly tackle these qualifiers.
Unless the Boyz suddenly find some long overdue spark, then sadly neither the fans nor sponsors are going to be attracted unless Jamaica reach their first World Cup finals since 1998. Should they reach 2022 Qatar then no doubt all and sundry will jump on the bandwagon of their success.
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