Canada seal their first FIFA World Cup finals for 36 years to upstage Reggae Boyz in freezing conditions
Paul Hall, who shook things up in bid to turn his interim head coach role into a permanent position, stood virtually speechless on the sidelines as Jamaica were trounced 4-0 at the BMO Field in Toronto last night (28 March).
The former international, who shares his time with coaching QPR’s U23 side in the English Championship, could only watch in horror as his team were blown away in freezing conditions.
Jamaica’s Reggae Boyz looked more like extras compared to the main characters of goalscorers Cyle Larin, Tajon Buchanan and Junior Hoilett.
And a comical late own goal from veteran defender Adrian Mariappa summed up what a disastrous display it was in minus four weather conditions. The result and performance reflected that this was indeed a game between Men versus Boyz.
Hall, who had lost his opening four games at the helm before employing new 5-3-2 tactics to earn a creditable home draw against El Salvador last week, had a number of players absent against the table-topping Canadians.
Aston Villa’s Leon Bailey as well as the QPR duo of shotstopper Dillon Barnes and striker Andre Gray missed out on what would have been part of a 15,000-mile whistlestop tour. Defenders Dwayne Atkinson (Cavalier SC, Jamaica) and Damion Lowe (Inter Miami CF, USA) were also missing.
Three new faces were added to boast the squad to 21 players, namely the understudies of Cavalier SC goalkeeper Jeadine White as well as US-based midfielders Tevin Shaw (Tuscon) and Peter-Lee Vassell (Hartford Athletic).
However, Hall kicked off with a 3-4-3 formation that left huge gaps in defence rather than his previously effective 5-3-2 foray.
Canada, guided by British-born head coach John Herdman since 2018, had been stunned 1-0 by Costa Rica in their previous game and only required a point against Jamaica to be certain of competing at the FIFA World Cup finals.
With a large and vocal home audience behind them, Canada’s remarkable CONCACAF World Cup qualifying run in Toronto continued to make it six triumphs and a draw.
They may have been missing key defender Alphonso Davies, recently diagnosed with a slight heart inflammation by his German club Bayern Munich, but the Jamaican attacks did not really trouble the back four.
It was at the other end of the pitch where all the action was, with Turkey-based all-time top scorer Larin in fine form.
Canada’s dress rehearsal for November’s World Cup finals in Qatar saw them looking dangerous on every attack, swarming the Jamaica box and constantly clipping crosses in from both wings.
With the Boyz eliminated from Qatar 2022 some time ago, Jamaica’s goal was to play for pride. Yet they failed to achieve that as Canada handed Hall’s largely inexperienced team a masterclass in all departments.
Andre Blake had to be sharp and athletic to save Larin’s fourth-minute effort. But the on-rushing Jamaica captain could not deny Larin nine minutes later, set up to perfection by Stephen Eustaquio as Canada sweep into a deserved lead.
Buchanan was guilty of sending his effort high over the target. Then a rare Jamaica attack saw keeper Milan Borjan get low to deny Daniel Green from snatching an equaliser against the run of play.
Larin should have doubled the lead, but fell to his knees in frustration after placing the ball wide when trying to be a big shot.
On the brink of the half-time whistle Canada managed to earn a two-goal advantage in a move started and completed by Buchanan. The Belgium-based winger won a free-kick wide on the left. Jonathan David curled in a cross that neatly fell to Buchanan, who hammered it home from close range.
After the interval Lamar Walker and Tarick Ximinies were introduced as Hall shuffled his side into a 4-4-2 set-up. This did not deter the enthusiastic and flowing moves, and Canada should have taken advantage of a couple of telling crosses from Larin that needed burying.
With Hall aware that the hosts looked menacingly dangerous upfront, exciting Canada-based left winger Alex Marshall came on for Ricardo Thomas on 56 minutes and Green was hauled off to give Vassell the last 20 minutes.
Veteran Hoilett poked home a Buchanan pass to increase the lead on 83 minutes. An own goal from Australia-based Mariappa, which would not look out of place in a pantomime as Blake was about to pick the ball the loose ball up, with two minutes remaining completed the rout.
Canada lived up to their star billing with a performance that lifted their audience, but will surely need to be more ruthless in Qatar when presented with guilt-edged chances to score. They will be back at the World Cup finals for the first time since 1986.
Jamaica, whose only appearance at the World Cup finals was in 1998, appear to be way off the mark on recent evidence. And under Hall they could remain being typecast as the team that never quite makes it.
When Hall named his initial squad, his choice of players was arguably not good enough to help his case to persuade the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) that he is a contender for the role on a permanent basis.
Yet the plot thickens for Hall as he has one final game left to prove his worth to the JFF, when Honduras are the visitors to the National Stadium in Kingston on Wednesday.
This is Hall’s only opportunity to grab a victory during his brief stint of seven matches. Honduras hot-shot Albert Elis, who has bagged nine goals in 19 games with French top-tier team FC Girondins Bordeaux this season, is going to be a danger. He is already on the wanted list of some big-spending European teams including AS Monaco.
And Tottenham Hotspurs’ midfielder Wilson Palacios should be another key player under respected head coach Hernan Gomez, who was appointed last October.
Yet even Gomez, who is only one of a trio of coaches to have qualified for the World Cup finals with at least three different nations, has not been able to stop the rot. He has faced seven World Cup qualifiers at the helm, and lost each one.
Although Honduras are an extremely physical side, the pace of their game is so much slower than the rest of the nations in the table and that often frustrates opponents.
Understandably the Jamaica fans are unlikely to be out in force, with around a thousand die-hard supporters having turned out for the El Salvador stalemate.
Hall was effectively viewed as a cheap stop-gap temporary head coach for the JFF. With five defeats and a draw so far, his appointment would not bode well for Jamaica’s CONCACAF Nations League campaign that kicks off in May.
The JFF have time to draw up a shortlist of potential candidates, but before casting their net should pay attention to the dialogue from fans on social media. These supporters are passionate about Jamaica succeeding, so their input could be invaluable towards bringing in the next main character to play head coach.
Jamaica: Blake – Leigh, Mariappa, King – Thomas (Marshall, 56), Morrison, Williams, Brown (Ximines, 46) – Nelson (Walker, 46), Green (Vassell, 70), Bygrave. Subs not used: Rose, Shaw, Walker, White, Pearson, Howell, Knight
CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers: Canada 4 Jamaica 0, El Salvador 1 Costa Rica 2, Honduras 0 Mexico 1, USA 5 Panama 1
CONCACAF World Cup qualifying table (after 13 games): Canada 28pts (+17 goal difference), USA 25pts (+13), Mexico 25pts (+7), Costa Rica 22pts (+3), Panama 18pts (-2), El Salvador 10pts (-8), Jamaica 8pts (-12), Honduras 4pts (-18)
Jamaica’s remaining match: Honduras (h) 30 March
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