Jamaica’s Reggae Boyz have been given a financial boost in their bid to reach the 2022 FIFA World Cup finals in Qatar, after it was announced by CONCACAF that the qualifiers will shift from a Hexagonal event to an Octagonal competition.
They now face 14 matches to reach 2022 Qatar, with half of those played on home soil, which should inject much-needed finances for the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) courtesy of sponsorship deals and contracts for television rights.
FIFA made a decision to remove games originally scheduled for September from the international match calendar due to the global outbreak of coronavirus, but international matches in the CONCACAF region are set to be played later this year.
The original Hexagonal Qualifiers, with three CONCACAF sides directly qualifying for Qatar 2022, were lined up with all teams to kick-off the campaign by playing two games each between September and November.
As the Boyz are currently among CONCACAF’s top five ranked sides – at FIFA world no.48 behind Mexico (no.11), USA (no.22) and Costa Rica (no.46) but ahead of Honduras (no.62) – they will receive a bye directly to these coveted Octagonal qualifiers.
The CONCACAF Octagonal Qualifying matches are scheduled to kick-off with four games for each team in next June’s double FIFA international match window followed by two matches in September, October and November 2021, followed by a further two games each in January and March 2022.
The Boyz originally reached CONCACAF’s six-nation Hexagonal Qualifying event for the World Cup finals on account of the final berths determined by FIFA rankings in June. However, the regional matches scheduled for March and June were scrapped because of the coronavirus pandemic.
CONCACAF’s other 30 nations will compete for three additional berths in the final round with the top-ranked sides of El Salvador (no.69), Canada (no.73), Curaçao (no.80), Panama (no.81) and Haiti (no.86) eager to reach the most ever financially lucrative World Cup finals.
Jamaica head coach Theodore Whitmore, who because of financial constraints by the JFF has been blooding players from across the island rather than relying on those plying their trade overseas. Despite having his hands tied, his squad choices have resulted in both current and former players constantly on his back through cutting comments across various media channels.
Whitmore, who played in Jamaica’s only foray at a World Cup finals with his string of impressive displays at the 1998 France tournament, has been polishing the skills of locally-based players under the instructions from the JFF.
The JFF’s objective is to try to keep this contingent of players from the island together for the remainder of the year, so that they can gel as a squad before the overseas contingent from Europe and those plying their trade in North America’s MLS are brought in to strength the Boyz.
Under CONCACAF’s new format, nations currently FIFA ranked no.6 to no.35 will be drawn next month into six groups comprising five teams with the seeded sides heading each group. Those seeded are Canada, Curaçao, El Salvador, Haiti, Panama as well as Trinidad & Tobago. Each group will compete in a single round-robin of four matches this October and November to determine the six sides reaching the second round of qualifiers.
These six nations are due to tackle a two-legged play-off in March, with the triumphant trio of teams progressing to the final round when Jamaica will become involved.
Those top three nations who top the table from the final round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers, when the eight teams will play each other home and away, will compete at 2022 Qatar. The fourth-placed side will be given a second shot at reaching the World Cup finals by advancing to an inter-continental play-off scheduled for June 2022.
The JFF issued a statement that read: “The Jamaica Football Federation welcomes the decision and acknowledges that it now allows the Federation to intensify a sustained plan towards June 2021.
“The JFF commends the technical staff and players who working with the Federation has positioned Jamaica in the top five and by so to benefit from the new format.
“It also allows the head coach to benefit from the restart of the local league and the international leagues to be able to see the current condition of the players who can make up the player pool.
“This announcement allows for fans, the corporate and public sectors as well as the diaspora to plan to be part of the journey to Qatar 2022.”
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