Jamaica, former CONCACAF Gold Cup finalists, have been handed a favourable draw for the 2021 edition of the prestigious biennial competition, which kicks off on 10 July.
Head coach Theodore Whitmore is allegedly busy scanning for potential players who are based in Europe and North America, as his goal is to guide Jamaica’s Reggae Boyz to the 2022 FIFA World Cup finals in Qatar.
But he has been gifted an opportunity to test any of his new troops at next year’s Gold Cup group stages, having been given a decent draw with only Costa Rica a realistic threat in their four-team group.
The Boyz are set to tackle Suriname and the winner of the preliminary play-offs that is between lowly FIFA world-ranked quartet of the Bahamas, Guadeloupe, Guatemala and Guyana.
World-ranked no.46 Costa Rica, two places higher than the Boyz, surprisingly lost 1-0 in their last outing at the hands of an experimental USA side in February but are generally a well disciplined side with brilliant counterattacking.
Suriname, who lie outside the world’s top 100, have become one of the most intriguing teams in the CONCACAF region over the past 18 months under the guidance of head coach Dean Gorre.
After finishing top of their group in League B of the 2019-20 CONCACAF Nations League (CNL), the nation qualified for their first ever Gold Cup. Their star was 20-year-old hotshot striker Gleofilo Vlijter, the top scorer with 10 goals in the CNL, and is already on the radar of leading European sides.
The Gold Cup, held in Miami last night (28 September), has pitched Canada and the USA in the same group for a marquee match-up. With defending champions Mexico pitched with El Salvador and guest competitor Qatar’s toughest opponent on paper Honduras.
UAE’s Qatar, who are scheduled to host the 2022 World Cup finals, are one of 13 teams guaranteed a berth in the 16-team group stage of the competition as Asian champions.
Trinidad & Tobago’s participation is reliant on their FIFA suspension being lifted on 18 December. Should their suspension not by lifted by that provisional deadline, then Antigua & Barbuda will replace Trinidad & Tobago as the next highest-ranked team based on their 2019 CONCACAF Nations League performance.
The preliminary round, involving a dozen teams, is set to be tackled between 2-6 July in North America to determine the trio of nations to qualify for the tournament finals.
The top two teams from each group qualify for the knockout quarter-finals, with Jamaica boasting a terrific pedigree at the Gold Cup having finished in 2015 and 2017 but settling for the semi-finals last year.
2021 Gold Cup Draw
Preliminaries, 1st Round
1: Haiti v St. Vincent & Grenadines
2: Guatemala v Guyana
3: Trinidad & Tobago v Montserrat
4: Cuba v French Guiana
5: Guadeloupe v Bahamas
6: Bermuda v Barbados
Preliminaries, 2nd Round
7: Haiti or St. Vincent & Grenadines v Bermuda or Barbados
8: Guatemala or Guyana v Guadeloupe or Bahamas
9: Trinidad & Tobago or Montserrat v Cuba or French Guiana
Group A: Curacao, El Salvador, Mexico & winner of preliminary match 9
Group B: Canada, Martinique, USA & winner of preliminary match 7
Group C: Costa Rica, Jamaica, Suriname & winner of preliminary match 8
Group D: Grenada, Honduras, Panama, Qatar
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