Reggae Boyz’ Coach Shows Drive For World Cup Journey
Heimir Hallgrimsson visits England in bid to steer Jamaica to football’s pinnacle tournament in 2026
Jamaica’s Gold Cup squad is expected to be bolstered for their 2026 FIFA World Cup campaign, with both British and North American players on the radar of head coach Heimir Hallgrimsson.
The Reggae Boyz will arrive at the 2023 CONCACAF Gold Cup to tackle defending champions USA, minnows Nicaragua and a preliminary round qualifier — either Curacao, French Guiana, Sint Maarten or St. Kitts & Nevis — in their four-nation Group A.
Jamaica, who are languishing outside the world’s top 50 because of a steady decline over the past few years, have put their faith in Icelandic coach Hallgrimsson to kick-start a long overdue resurgence. The 55-year-old former defender, who masterminded Iceland reaching their maiden World Cup finals five years ago, has yet to set the Caribbean side alight during his three matches in charge.
His trio of games in March kicked off with a shock 1-0 defeat to a youthful Trinidad & Tobago side at Montego Bay. An insipid scoreless draw against the same opponents at Kingston’s National Stadium followed.
Hallgrimsson’s troops finally found the back of the net in his last outing, with Fulham’s Bobby Decordova-Reid scoring a sorcerer to break the deadlock in the must-win CONCACAF Nations League tie against hosts Mexico. The Boyz salvaged a 2-2 stalemate, courtesy of a second-half own goal, but exited the competition.
Jamaica now have to dust down their disappointment and bounce back, with Hallgrimsson eager to prove his worth at the Gold Cup.
With a plethora of players having failed to impress supporters under Hallgrimsson, the coach has little choice but to rebuild his squad if he wants to make an impact and steer the Boyz back to being highly competitive.
As the North American leagues are littered with talented Jamaica-born players, Hallgrimsson has recently spent some time rueing his eye on who could be part of his improved set-up.
Hallgrimmson, after spending time back in Iceland, is currently in England. He is in discussions with a handful of British-born players that he wants for Jamaica.
Rumours are swirling around the island that Premier League wingers Demarai Gray and Reiss Nelson could soon pledge their allegiance to Jamaica and be part of Hallgrimsson’s plans at the prestigious Gold Cup finals.
Everton’s Gray is in the process of acquiring his Jamaican passport, so he should be involved in the Boyz’ opening Gold Cup game against the US on 24 June.
Nelson could join Birmingham-born Gray at both club and international level with relegation-threatened Everton among the top-tier admirers that include Aston Villa, Brighton & Hove Albion and West Ham United.
Londoner Nelson, who has played a bit-part for Arsenal, is out of contract in the summer.
Jamaica, whose last significant success was reaching the 2017 Gold Cup final, have given Hallgrimsson the remit to reach the 2026 World Cup finals. With the next highly-lucrative tournament to be played in Canada, Mexico and the United States it means that Jamaica won’t have to face these rivals during the qualifying campaign. The trio of hosts have automatic berths at the next World Cup finals.
As FIFA has increased the number of teams from 32 to 48 for the 2026 event, it means that the Boyz have their best shot at competing in the world’s biggest football tournament for the first time since 1998.
When Jamaica made their World Cup finals debut at France 98, they earned their Reggae Boyz nickname because they were so reliant on English-based players.
Hallgrimsson will be aware of exactly what made the Boyz a success story last century. With his attempts to lure young English-based players to join Jamaica means that history could repeat itself.
The initial step on Jamaica’s road to long-term success is for this coach to pick up new faces to invigorate and strengthen the current squad, which will kick-off with the Gold Cup finals.
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