Youthful Reggae Boyz squad return to the Caribbean from Austria having gelled as a team
Merron Gordon’s short reign as Jamaica’s temporary head coach ended with a creditable draw against Qatar, the FIFA World Cup hosts, behind closed doors yesterday.
The heavily-depleted Reggae Boyz still managed to concede for the 14th match on the bounce, but battled their way to a 1-1 stalemate against Qatar at the Ernst-Happel-Stadion in Vienna.
Online statistics claimed that the much-changed Arab side had bossed the clash and triumphed 2-0, with striker Akram Afif and defender Boualem Khoukhi having slotted home against the Boyz.
Yet it transpired that Gordon masterminded an incredible draw in the Austria Mini Football Tournament against a team who lie 14 places above FIFA world-ranked no.62 Jamaica.
Qatar, who have been based in a training camp in Austria for months, polished off their preparations for their maiden shot at World Cup glory with a hard-fought clash against the youthful Boyz.
Jamaica had their game against Ghana cancelled, due to the African side having visa issues, and Gordon’s first game in charge saw the Boyz well and truly beaten 3-0 by managerless Morocco.
Qatar, who had recently been held to scoreless draws by leading Italian club sides Florentina and Lazio, began the four-nation tournament with a gutsy 2-2 draw against Ghana then edged Morocco 2-1.
The World Cup hosts, who deliberately arranged the event so that it was not a FIFA-free slot for top players to compete, played with verve and style against the two A teams provided by African opposition.
Yet Jamaica, who were reliant primarily on their island-based players who have yet to kick off the Jamaica Premier League season, were far from easy prey for the Felix Sanchez-coached outfit.
Gordon, who stepped into the empty shoes of unavailable interim head coach Paul Hall for this tournament, was adamant before his troops arrived in Austria that he was not looking to take over the helm on a regular basis.
He had walked away after leading the Reggae Girlz to an unbeaten run in 2019. Gordon is currently the assistant coach to England-based Hall, who remains in negotiations with the Jamaica Football Federation about being given the role on a permanent basis.
Gordon’s tactics were once again about defending, and their overall display was a vast improvement. However, the Boyz are on a dreadful run of 14 games without keeping a clean sheet.
Following a scoreless 45 minutes, Indian-based striker Jourdaine Fletcher bagged only his second international goal to put the Boyz into a 70th-minute lead.
Despite Gordon’s defensive tactics, a rare appearance from midfielder Khaled Muneer was capped by an 83rd-minute equaliser to hand Qatar a share of the spoils.
Gordon said: “The technical staff really planned this out in terms of tactically how we would approach the game. We got it tactically right the last time [against Morocco], but we were unfortunate. We knew as long as we could build on that we would get it right.
“With a bit more concentration we wouldn’t give up that goal and we would have probably won the game, and with a bit more luck on the transitional plays we could have scored a few more goals as well, but it was good.
“This Qatar team has all the resources in the world and we are still just an emerging team.”
Finding the back of the net also remains a massive problem for Jamaica. When the likes of English Premier League goalscoring talents such as Michail Antonio (West Ham United), Leon Bailey (Aston Villa) and Bobby Decordova-Reid (Fulham) are available, then those who made it to Austria are likely to be discarded.
The best thing that has derived from this tournament, aside from the camaraderie that Gordon helped instil into what is effectively Jamaica’s reserves, is that the majority of the squad got to taste what it is like to play on the international stage outside the Caribbean.
There were no hefty reversals from this pair of games and, although the Boyz were on a learning curve in every department, the squad can return with their heads held high as they rolled up their sleeves and competed with passion for Gordon.
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