Theodore Whitmore now knows that his Reggae Boyz will be joined in Group C at this month’s CONCACAF Gold Cup by either Guadeloupe or Guatemala.
The Jamaica head coach should not be too worried by Guadeloupe, with the French Caribbean islanders ponderously seeing off the Bahamas 2-0 inside the DRV PNK Stadium at Fort Lauderdale last night (3 July).
However, Kingston-born Whitmore should arguably be concerned at the way Guatemala demolished Guyana in the 1st preliminary round at DRV PNK Stadium in Florida last night, to set up a knockout tie between the pair on Tuesday to determine who joins Costa Rica, Suriname and Jamaica in Group C.
FIFA world-ranked no.127 Guatemala took the lead through a deflected strike, and then faced 10 players after 40 minutes to then ran riot and now appear favourites to progress to the main draw.
Whitmore, who methodically guided Jamaica to the 2019 semi-final and 2017 final of the showpiece tournament, will be vying to reach the final on 1 August at newly-built US$2 billion Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas.
The Boyz tackle the 16th edition of the tournament in the United States. Instead of the promised new-look Boyz from Jamaica Football Federation president Michael Ricketts, Whitmore has selected a pretty unadventurous squad although the inclusion of midfield maestro Leon Bailey could light up the stage.
This Gold Cup competition was supposed to be a stepping stone for Whitmore to bring in new faces, gel them together and fine-tune the squad towards the all-important World Cup qualifiers.
Realistically the Boyz have a shot, albeit slim, at winning the competition with skipper and shotstopper Andre Blake back for the first time since 2019. A handful of nations, including the mighty United States, are resting key players ahead of the region’s World Cup qualifiers that kick off in September.
Whitmore, who has patiently masterminded Jamaica’s rise in recent years despite a stream of obstacles, is taking a training camp in Orlando until 9 July. Three days later he will be sending his troops into action against Suriname at Orlando’s Exploria Stadium, which will kick off Group C.
Costa Rica, who lie five places behind FIFA world-ranked no.45 Jamaica, are surprisingly the seeded side in Group C and recently changed head coach. They have experienced a torrid time over the past 16 months, so will be aiming to arrest their recent slide.
With Guatemala the most likely team to join the four-team Group for the round-robin encounters, Jamaica have an exceptionally strong chance of advancing to the knockout stage of the quarter-finals.
Jamaica, as long as they finish in the top two, will play at the State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona on 24 July. Emerging nation Curaçao, El Salvador, Mexico or a qualifier (Montserrat or Trinidad & Tobago) lie in wait.
Should the Boyz make it to their fourth Gold Cup semi-final on the bounce then 29 July could be memorable date with a game in Texas at either the NRG Stadium in Houston or the Q2 Stadium in Austin.
Mexico (no.11), the seeded side in Group A, shall be missing their young talent as the region’s representatives at the Olympics in Japan (22 July–7 August). The Games’ Football Competition comprises U23 players. The defending champions have been drawn to tackle El Salvador (no.69), Curaçao (no.76) and will probably face ever improving Trinidad & Tobago (no.103) rather than surprise package Montserrat.
The United States (no.20) are the Group B seeds, and have been handed arguably the easier route among the leading teams. US coach Gregg Berhalter, who will be resting his European-based players, faces Canada (no.70), minnows Martinique and one nation from either Bermuda or Haiti (no.83).
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 their group are Grenada, Panama (no.78) and AFC Asian Cup champions Qatar as the guest nation.
GROUP C | CONCACAF GOLD CUP
(*Listed in ET)
12 July | Orlando, Florida
Jamaica v Suriname, Exploria Stadium (6.30pm)
Costa Rica v Guadeloupe or Guatemala, Exploria Stadium (9pm)
16 July | Orlando, Florida
Guadeloupe or Guatemala v Jamaica, Exploria Stadium (6.30pm)
Suriname v Costa Rica, Exploria Stadium (8.30pm)
20 July |
Costa Rica v Jamaica, Exploria Stadium, Florida (7pm)
Suriname v Guadeloupe or Guatemala, BBVA Stadium, Texas (7pm)
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