Generous Draw for Jamaica to Kick-Off World Cup Ambitions

Author: Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rüdd

Fringe players from the island expected to be given a shot to impress head coach Heimir Hallgrimsson

Jamaica have been handed what, on paper at least, appears to be an extremely easy group for the 2nd CONCACAF qualifying round of the 2026 FIFA World Cup.

The Reggae Boyz will kick-off their qualifiers at home against the Dominican Republic on 6 June, play in Dominica three days later on 9 June before tackling the next two matches 12 months later.

Jamaica won’t be quaking in their boots when they travel to face the 1st qualifying round winner between the British Virgin Islands and the US Virgin Islands on 7 June 2025, before completing their campaign when hosting Guatemala at home on 10 June 2025.

  

Heimir Hallgrimsson has been given the remit of returning the Boyz to football’s biggest stage for the first time since their debut at the world’s most popular tournament in 1998.

The former Iceland boss, who has proved successful results-wise in his 12 months of a four-year deal as Jamaica head coach, will kick off the nation’s World Cup ambitions this year.

As Canada, Mexico and the United States will co-host the prestigious World Cup finals in two years, a trio of Jamaica’s biggest rivals in qualifying have been handed automatic berths. This means that Costa Rica and Panama are the only higher-ranked teams than Jamaica for these regional qualifiers.

The recent draw at FIFA’s headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland saw CONCACAF’s 30-nation 2nd round made, which will be narrowed down to a dozen finalists competing for three automatic berths at the 2026 World Cup finals.

FIFA-ranked no.56 Jamaica will kick-off their World Cup campaign in Group E, where they are pitted against minnows Guatemala (world no.108), Dominican Republic (no.150), Dominica (no.180) and the winner of the 1st round play-off between British Virgin Islands (no.207) and the US Virgin Islands (no.208).

The Boyz are unlikely to face any difficulties navigating their way out of what seems like the weakest group. It is anticipated that Hallgrimsson will use these matches to rue an eye over his fringe players — including those who compete in the Jamaica Premier League — rather than rely on the big names such as Aston Villa hot-shot Leon Bailey and West Ham veteran striker Michail Antonio.

Initial play-offs are set for March between the four lowest-ranked CONCACAF teams, with the British Virgin Islands facing the US Virgin Islands while Anguilla will tackle the Turks & Caicos Islands.

  

The respective winners of these games will join the other 28 sides in the 2nd round qualifiers. The format is six groups that comprises five nations, with the top two teams progressing following round-robin matches.

Jamaica should soar through their group games to progress to the final round of 12 teams, when the real challenge will begin — to be played between September and November 2025 — and Hallgrimsson is highly likely to bring back some of his ageing stars.

Honduras (no.76) are the strongest side in Group A, where they will take on Antigua & Barbuda, Bermuda, Cayman Islands and ever-improving Cuba.

Costa Rica (no.53) and Trinidad & Tobago (no.96) are expected to make their way out of Group B. The Bahamas are anticipated to be the whipping boys as Grenada and St. Kitts & Nevis, two teams who are on the rise, make up arguably the toughest group.

Haiti (no.89) are the standout side in Group C, which includes the Dutch Caribbean teams of Aruba and Curaçao as well as the Eastern Caribbean pair of Barbados and St. Lucia.

Panama (no.42) are the overwhelming favourites to top Group D, as the rest of the line-up are all ranked outside FIFA’s top 100. Belize, Guyana, Montserrat and  Nicaragua make up the group.

El Salvador (no.79) appear to have a straightforward passage as they will tackle the winner of Anguilla versus the Turks & Caicos Islands on top of playing relative minnows Puerto Rico, St. Vincent & the Grenadines and Suriname.

It won’t have gone unnoticed by Reggae Boyz fans that Hallgrimsson has the most simplistic task ever gifted to a Jamaica coach to qualify for football’s showpiece tournament, courtesy of three main rivals not tasked with the qualifiers.

The generous 2nd round qualifiers offer him the chance to truly hone locally-based players, rather than rely so heavily on squad members who primarily ply their trade in Europe and North America.

  

Having brilliantly led Iceland to the 2016 UEFA European Championships quarter-finals, Hallgrimsson oversaw qualification for the FIFA World Cup finals in 2018. But he resigned after Iceland failed to navigate their way out of the group stages.

It seems that Hallgrimsson has hit the jackpot with Jamaica, although he won’t want a repeat of his failure as head coach at a World Cup finals.

2026 FIFA WORLD CUP
(CONCACAF 2ND ROUND QUALIFIERS)
JAMAICA’S GAMES
6 June 2024 |
Dominican Republic (Home)

9 June 2024 | Dominica (Away)
7 June 2025 | British Virgin Islands or US Virgin Islands on 7 June (Away)

10 June 2025 | Guatemala (Home)

GROUP A |
Antigua & Barbuda, Bermuda, Cayman Islands, Cuba, Honduras

GROUP B | Bahamas, Costa Rica, Grenada, St. Kitts & Nevis, Trinidad & Tobago
GROUP C | Aruba, Barbados, Curaçao, Haiti, St. Lucia
GROUP D | Belize, Guyana, Montserrat, Nicaragua, Panama
GROUP E | British Virgin Islands or US Virgin Islands, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Jamaica
GROUP F | Anguilla or Turks & Caicos Islands, El Salvador, Puerto Rico, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, Suriname


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