Theodore Whitmore will not be too overawed for the group games as he gets his troops ready to tackle his third successive CONCACAF Gold Cup as the Jamaica head coach.
Although there is no pressure on the Montego Bay-born former midfielder, he should not underestimate surprise package Guadeloupe who have just joined Jamaica’s Reggae Boyz, Suriname and seeded side Costa Rica in Group C.
Guadeloupe returned to the Gold Cup group stage for the first time since 2011, with the French Caribbean islanders coming through the preliminary rounds with a low-key 2-0 success over the Bahamas before stunning Guatemala 10-9 in a dramatic penalty shootout after an entertaining 1-1 stalemate.
Jocelyn Angloma has been head coach of “Les Gwada Boys” since 2017, but as Guadeloupe are not a FIFA member his team only participates in regional competitions.
Whitmore, who navigated his Boyz to the 2019 semi-final and 2017 final of this showpiece tournament, will be confident of guiding Jamaica to the Gold Cup final at the newly-built US$2 billion Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas on 1 August.
He is taking a training camp in Orlando until 9 July, and three days later kicks off Jamaica’s campaign in the Group C opener against Suriname at Orlando’s Exploria Stadium.
The Boyz face little-know Guadeloupe on 16 July and four days later will conclude their round-robin encounters when they face Costa Rica. “The Ricos” lie five places behind FIFA world-ranked no.45 Jamaica, yet have been given the honour as the seeded side in Group C.
The top two nations from these four-team group games will advance to the quarter-final knockout stage.
Jamaica, as long as they do finish in the top two, will play at the State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona on 24 July. Out-of-sorts Curaçao, El Salvador, Mexico or qualifier Trinidad & Tobago lie in wait.
Ever improving Trinidad & Tobago (world-ranked no.103) have admirably bounced back from their disappointment of missing out on reaching the final stages of the CONCACAF World Cup, by destroying Montserrat 6-1 in the 1st preliminary round and edging past French Guiana 8-7 in the penalty shootout after a 1-1 draw. Yet their reward is a tough task in Group A with defending champions Mexico (no.11), El Salvador (no.69) and Curaçao (no.76).
However, seeded side Mexico shall be missing their young talent as the region’s representatives compete at the Olympics in Japan (July 22–August 7). The Games’ Football Competition comprises U23 players.
The United States (no.20) are the Group B seeds, and have been handed arguably the easier route among the top teams. US coach Gregg Berhalter, who is resting his leading European-based players, faces in-form Canada (no.70), minnows Martinique – like Guadeloupe are not a FIFA member – and qualifier Haiti (no.83).
Haiti, who only installed head coach Jean-Jacques Pierre this year, thrashed St. Vincent & the Grenadines in the 1st preliminary round and swept past Bermuda 4-1 in the 2nd preliminary round with hot-shot striker Frantzdy Pierrot a player to watch out.
Honduras (no.67) head Group D as the seeded team and, like Mexico, will be without their young aces as they tackle the Olympic Games. The others sides in the group are Panama (no.78), Grenada (no.160) and AFC Asian Cup champions Qatar (no.58) as the guest nation.
Whitmore’s squad does not comprise the promised new-look Boyz that Jamaica Football Federation president Michael Ricketts mooted in March. Instead, Whitmore has selected a pretty unadventurous squad full of familiar faces and a sprinkling of recent newcomers.
Although the return of skipper and goalkeeper Andre Blake, for the first time since 2019, and the inclusion of whizzy winger Leon Bailey should instil some confidence for the Boyz.
A fourth successive Gold Cup semi-final is achievable, with 29 July the date that Jamaica could be playing in Texas at either the NRG Stadium in Houston or the Q2 Stadium in Austin.
This Gold Cup competition was meant to be an opportunity for Whitmore to bring in new faces, gel them together and fine-tune the squad with the focus on successfully tackling the all-important World Cup qualifiers.
However, with leading nations fielding depleted squad Whitmore will be aware that Jamaica have a real shot at lifting the Gold Cup for the first time in their history.
CONCACAF GOLD CUP SCHEDULE
(*Listed in ET)
10 July | Dallas Metropolitan Area (Group A)
El Salvador v Curaçao, Toyota Stadium (4pm)
Mexico v Trinidad & Tobago, AT&T Stadium (10pm)
11 July | Kansas City, Kansas (Group B)
Canada v Martinique, Children’s Mercy Park (6.30pm)
USA v Haiti, Children’s Mercy Park (8.30pm)
12 July | Orlando, Florida (Group C)
Jamaica v Suriname, Exploria Stadium (6.30pm)
Costa Rica v Guadeloupe, Exploria Stadium (9pm)
13 July | Houston, Texas (Group D)
Qatar v Panama, BBVA Stadium (6pm)
Honduras v Grenada, BBVA Stadium (9pm)
14 July | Dallas Metropolitan Area (Group A)
Trinidad & Tobago v El Salvador, Toyota Stadium, 7.30pm
Curaçao v Mexico, Cotton Bowl, 9.30pm
15 July | Kansas City, Kansas (Group B)
Haiti v Canada, Children’s Mercy Park (7.30pm)
Martinique v USA, Children’s Mercy Park (9.30pm)
16 July | Orlando, Florida (Group C)
Guadeloupe v Jamaica, Exploria Stadium (6.30pm)
Suriname v Costa Rica, Exploria Stadium (8.30pm)
17 July | Houston, Texas (Group D)
Grenada v Qatar, BBVA Stadium (7.30pm)
Panama v Honduras, BBVA Stadium (9.30pm)
18 July | Groups A & B
Martinique v Haiti, Toyota Stadium, Dallas (5pm)
USA v Canada, Children’s Mercy Park, Kansas (5pm)
Mexico v El Salvador (Cotton Bowl, Dallas (10pm)
Curaçao v Trinidad & Tobago (Toyota Stadium, Dallas (10pm)
20 July | Groups C & D
Costa Rica v Jamaica, Exploria Stadium, Florida (7pm)
Suriname v Guadeloupe, BBVA Stadium, Texas (7pm)
Panama v Grenada, Exploria Stadium, Florida (9pm)
Honduras v Qatar, BBVA Stadium, Texas (9pm)
24 July | Glendale, Arizona (quarter-finals)
QF1 1D v 2A, State Farm Stadium (7.30pm)
QF2 1A v 2D, State Farm Stadium (10pm)
25 July | Arlington, Texas (quarter-finals)
QF3 1C v 2B, AT&T Stadium (7pm)
QF4 1B v 2C, AT&T Stadium (9.30pm)
29 July | Texas (semi-finals)*
SF1 Winner QF1 (1D or 2A) v Winner QF4 (1B or 2C), Q2 Stadium, Austin (7.30pm)
SF2 Winner QF2 (1A or 2D) v Winner QF3 (1C or 2B), NRG Stadium, Houston (10pm)
1 August | Las Vegas, Nevada (Final)
Final Winner SF1 v Winner SF2, Allegiant Stadium
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