Michail Antonio, the West Ham United hot-shot, is one of a handful of surprise British-based omissions from Jamaica’s 23-player squad to tackle this month’s CONCACAF Gold Cup.
Jamaica’s game against Suriname, at Orlando’s Exploria Stadium on 12 July, kicks off Group C in the Gold Cup with a dependable squad rather than an adventurous one selected by head coach Theodore Whitmore.
Enfield-born 31-year-old Antonio, who picked for England under two different managers but never featured, was waiting to finalise his official documents to make his debut for Jamaica’ Reggae Boyz.
Two other strikers, Watford’s Andre Gray and Swansea City’s Jamal Lowe, are absent from the roster. The pair were both called up for their debut against the United States in March, when first-choice players were in dispute with the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) over contracts and finances.
Both Gray and Lowe have scored since donning a Jamaican jersey, Lowe snatching a cheeky consolation in the 4-1 reversal and Gray opening the scoring in last month’s 1-1 stalemate against Serbia in Japan.
Whitmore seemed to be leaned on by the JFF in March, to strengthen the squad with players plying their trade in the English top flight, in a bid to qualify for the highly lucrative FIFA World Cup finals in Qatar.
However, there aren’t any such players named in this Gold Cup squad, although the head coach may be following the actions of other teams – such as Costa Rica, Mexico and the United States – who are resting their top stars, so that they have fresh legs for the World Cup qualifiers in September.
There is expected to be a place in the World Cup qualifiers for at least some of the top-flight British contingent comprising defensive duo Gregory Leigh (Aberdeen) and Ethan Pinnock (Brentford), midfielder Kemar Roofe (Rangers) plus forwards Antonio and Gray.
Whitmore recently masterminded a 1-1 draw against European heavyweights Serbia with a depleted squad, before his tactics came crashing down with a ponderous 4-0 thumping at the hands of Japan’s Olympic team.
He has opted for reliability with his latest squad, which welcomes back influential captain and no.1 goalkeeper Andre Blake for the first time since October 2019. QPR’s Dillon Barnes is included, despite looking lacklustre between the sticks against Japan’s Olympic team, with Humble Lions FC’s shotstopper Dennis Taylor the sole island-based representative among the 23-strong squad.
The British-based contingent comprises Barnes, defensive quartet Amari’I Bell, Michael Hector, Adrian Mariappa and Liam Moore, midfield duo Daniel Johnson and the unattached Ravel Morrison plus striker Bobby Decordova-Reid.
Leon Bailey, Bayer Leverkusen’s whizzy winger, makes his long-awaited debut in the prestigious regional competition. He won his race against time to recover from a broken toe, which occurred in the final few weeks of the German Bundesliga season.
The 2021 Gold Cup takes place from 10 July until 1 August in the United States, with a newly-introduced preliminary phase (2-6 July) for relative minnows such as Haiti and Trinidad & Tobago. Cuba were unable to be involved in this preliminary stage, as planned, because of a combination of Covid-19 travel challenges and visa issues.
Jamaica are pitched in a Group C with Costa Rica, Suriname and one other nation from the preliminary phase – either Guadeloupe or Guatamala. The Boyz’ group stage games will be contested in Orlando and Texas. The top two nations from the four-team Group round-robin encounters will advance to the knockout stage of the quarter-finals, with the final to be hosted at the newly-built Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas.
The JFF know that the Boyz have a shot at winning this prestigious competition, but they surely will be bitterly disappointed that they were unable to unveil the new-look Boyz side that JFF president Michael Ricketts mentioned back in March.
Montego Bay-born Whitmore is undertaking the training camp in Orlando until 9 July, with new assistant coaches Merron Gordon and Paul Hall, aiming for Jamaica to be crowned Gold Cup for the first time.
Whitmore methodically guided his Boyz to the 2019 semi-final and 2017 final of the region’s showpiece tournament, with a serious shot of winning the event this year.
However, the JFF will undoubtedly have their eye on one other prize that is far more lucrative than lifting the Gold Cup, namely winning a place at the World Cup finals in Qatar 2022.
But it remains to be seen whether Antonio and any other top-flight British-based players will be involved in the all-important regional World Cup qualifiers, and if the current crop can gel together then Whitmore may not need to change his winning formula.
Gold Cup squad
Goalkeepers (3) | DILLON BARNES (QUEENS PARK RANGERS, ENG), ANDRE BLAKE (PHILADELPHIA UNION, USA), DENNIS TAYLOR (HUMBLE LIONS FC, JAM)
Defenders (8) | AMARI’I BELL (LUTON TOWN, ENG), ONIEL FISHER (LA GALAXY, USA), MICHAEL HECTOR (FULHAM, ENG), KEMAR LAWRENCE (TORONTO FC, CAN), DAMION LOWE (AL-ITTIHAD, KSA), ADRIAN MARIAPPA (BRISTOL CITY, ENG), LIAM MOORE (READING, ENG), ALVAS POWELL (PHILADELPHIA UNION, USA)
Midfielders (6) | LEON BAILEY (BAYER LEVERKUSEN,GER), DANIEL JOHNSON (PRESTON NORTH END, ENG), TYREEK MAGEE (KAS EUPEN, BEL), RAVEL MORRISON (UNATTACHED), LAMAR WALKER (MIAMI FC, USA), DEVON WILLIAMS (MIAMI FC, USA)
Forwards (6) | CORY BURKE (PHILADELPHIA UNION, USA), BOBBY DECORDOVA-REID (FULHAM, ENG), JAVON EAST (SANTOS DE GUAPILES, CRC), JUNIOR FLEMMINGS (BIRMINGHAM LEGION, USA), SHAMAR NICHOLSON (ROYAL CHARLEROI SC, BEL), BLAIR TURGOTT (OSTERSUNDS FK, SWE)
Remember to share this article on Facebook and other Social Media Platforms. To submit your own articles or to advertise with us please send us an EMAIL at: [email protected]