World Cup Qualifiers - Concacaf

World Cup Qualifiers - Concacaf (47)

Jamaica’s Reggae Boyz will once again be without fans for upcoming home World Cup qualifiers against Mexico and Costa Rica as the government looks to put measures in place to combat the recent spike in coronavirus cases.

The country has played the majority of its matches behind closed doors, so far, with the lone exception being its last match against the United States, which allowed for 5000 vaccinated spectators to be present.

With 15 more COVID deaths, 1,548 new cases, and a positivity rate of 51.5 percent, as of Tuesday, however, the Government has decided to return to closed-door measures.  The Reggae Boyz have been the only team in the octagonal round that has been affected so severely by coronavirus restrictions, with many other teams sticking to the practice of limiting the numbers of fans allowed at the venues.

Jamaica, however, has the lowest vaccination rate of all the countries participating in the qualifiers with just 557,000 persons fully vaccinated, representing just 20.4 percent of the population.

The Reggae Boyz will be hoping to make a late run to book a place at this year’s FIFA World Cup having found themselves well off the pace midway through the qualifiers.  The team is currently 6th in the standings on 7 points, seven short of the final qualification spot.  The team will kick off the next round with a match against Mexico on January 27th, followed by a trip to Panama three days later and a home fixture against Costa Rica on January 30.

 General Secretary of the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF), Dalton Wint, has welcomed the implementation of Video Assistant Replay (VAR), which will be used for the final six games of the Concacaf World Cup qualifiers.

Prior to this, Concacaf was one of only three nations not making use of the technology, alongside AFCON (Africa) and Oceania, and were hampered in their efforts to do so by not only technological restrictions but also due to a lack of certified officials.  With both issues rectified since the start of the year, the way is now clear for the replay system to be implemented.

In its absence, the competition has been plagued by what some believe to be high-profile refereeing errors.  Against the United States with the game tied at 1-1, Jamaica defender Damion Lowe’s header, which flew into the net 7 minutes from time, was controversially ruled out for what appeared to be very little contact with US defender Walker Zimmerman.  The game ended in a 1-1 draw.

With the country well behind on points in their pursuit of three and a half qualification spots, three points instead of one could have made a huge difference.  Wint hopes that in the future such costly errors can be avoided.

“I think it (decisions like that) is one of the major reasons CONCACAF decided to implement it.  It is really important to get the major decisions right,” Wint said of the upcoming technology upgrade.

There have of course also been times when the technology may have gone against the country notably when Lowe was himself yellow carded for a last-ditch challenge on USA player Brenden Aaronson, although the call might have been marginal at best.

“I’m all for it.  If you have the technology, then why not use it.  You can’t have it both ways, at times it may slow the game down, but it is important to try and arrive at the correct decision.”

The Reggae Boyz, who are currently in 6th place in the eight-team standings and 7 points behind the final qualifying spot, will resume their qualification campaign against Mexico on January 27th.  

 

 

 

Preparations are advancing for the Video Assistant Replay (VAR) replay system to be installed at Jamaica’s National Stadium, with a site visit expected to take place early next week.

Production and audiovisual company MediaPro, which is already in charge of broadcasting all Concacaf events, will be responsible for implementing the technology in Jamaica, Honduras, El Salvador, Costa Rica, and Panama.  The other four venues, which do not have the technology installed.

The move follows up on the decision by CONCACAF to implement VAR for the region in September, but the move was held up not only by logistical considerations but also by adequately certified officials.

In recent weeks, however, football’s world governing body FIFA has accredited referees, as well as VAR assistants and managers.  Prior to that, only the United States, Mexico, and Canada had VAR officials as they were the only ones to make use of the technology in their various leagues.

Implementing the technology in Jamaica will incur an added expense as the equipment will have to be flown to the island before being installed at the country’s national stadium.  The other CONCACAF venues taking part in the Octagonal round, which do not have yet the technology, can be accessed via roadways.  The majority of the bill will be picked up by Concacaf.  Jamaica will resume World Cup qualification action against Mexico, at the National Stadium, on January 27th.

Football’s world governing body FIFA has fined Jamaica Football Federation (JMD$170,000) for a bottle-throwing incident that occurred during the World Cup qualifying match against the United States at the National Stadium in Kingston last month.

Near the end of the match that ended in a 1-1 draw, a plastic water bottle was thrown from the bleachers' seats near the running track. The incident was reported to the FIFA security officer on-site and the JFF was subsequently fined.

According to the FIFA ruling, “The Jamaica Football Federation is ordered to pay 1000 Swiss Francs for the inappropriate behaviour of its supporters in connection with the match Jamaica vs the USA played on 16 November 2021 in the scope of the Preliminary Competition for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™, CONCACAF Zone. The fine is to be paid within 30 days of notification of the present decision.”

The JFF appealed the decision but the appeal was deemed inadmissible. In its appeal, the JFF expressed regret at the incident while pointing to its constant appeal to fans through different means not to throw objects, as well as the limitations on the sale of refreshments inside the stadium.

In light of the fine, the JFF said it was once again reminding spectators that they must follow all outlined protocols once they are within the confines of the National Stadium on match day as another breach could threaten Jamaica's hopes of hosting international games in the future.

Jamaica head coach, Theodore Whitmore, is expected to be replaced as head coach of the country’s national team with the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) technical committee on Wednesday, expected to meet and make the recommendation.

Whitmore, a former national player, who was a part of the country’s historic 1998 World Cup team, was in his third stint in charge of the Jamaica squad.  The Reggae Boyz have, however, struggled in the ongoing World Cup qualifiers despite being one of the pre-tournament favourites to do well.

After eight games the team is in 6th spot, seven places off the automatic qualification and play-off spots.  During the difficult run, which included a 3-0 home loss to Panama, the coach’s line-up choices and tactics have come into question.

Whitmore, however, has one of the best win percentages as a Jamaica coach and is only one of two to take the team to the final of the CONCACAF Gold Cup.  According to yet to be confirmed reports, Whitmore is expected to be replaced by former England player Ricky Hill, a coach formerly at American USL Championship club Tampa Bay Rowdies.  Whitmore’s assistant Paul Hall will reportedly stay on as a part of the coaching unit.  The Jamaican team will resume its World Cup qualification with a home fixture against Mexico in January.

 

West Ham owner David Sullivan has forked out an eye-watering £100,000 ($21,013,467) to get striker Michail Antonio back to England with enough time to rest for Saturday’s English Premier League (EPL) encounter against Wolverhampton.

The striker had a private jet waiting for him at the airport soon after Jamaica played to a 1-1 draw against the United States, in the recently concluded round of World Cup qualifiers, where the in-form striker scored a thunderbolt.  In fact, Antonio scored both goals for Jamaica during the round after also getting the goal also El Salvador in another 1-1 draw for the Caribbean team.

Despite the 31-year-old's impact, Jamaica remains off the pace needed for qualification to next year’s World Cup as they are currently 6th in the standings, with six matches remaining. Antonio began appearing for the Caribbean team after switching nationality from England this year, both his parents were born in the Caribbean country,

The form of striker, who has scored six Premier League goals so far, has been crucial to a strong start to the season for West Ham, who are currently third in the EPL standings.  The forward has also scored one goal for the team in a Europa League campaign that sees them comfortably at the top of Group H.

 

Canada took a giant stride towards qualifying for their first World Cup since 1986 after Cyle Larin's brace led them to a 2-1 win over rivals Mexico in frosty conditions in Edmonton on Tuesday.

Larin struck either side of half-time, the victory seeing Canada leapfrog the United States and Mexico into top spot in CONCACAF 2022 World Cup qualifying with 16 points from eight games.

The result condemned Mexico to back-to-back qualifying defeats, after Friday's 2-0 loss to USA, leaving El Tri third on 14 points.

USA are second on 15 points following their 1-1 draw in Jamaica earlier on Tuesday.

Canada went ahead on the stroke of half-time when Mexico goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa failed to hold Alistair Johnston's long-range effort, with Besiktas forward Larin swooping on the rebound.

Larin doubled Canada's lead in the 52nd minute, cushioning a right-foot volley from Stephen Eustaquio's free-kick.

Mexico pulled a goal back in the 90th minute via Hector Herrera's header, ensuring a frantic finish before Jorge Sanchez squandered a golden opportunity from point-blank range as Canada goalkeeper Milan Borjan saved his chested effort.

The United States missed the chance to reinforce their lead at the top of the CONCACAF 2022 World Cup qualifying standings after a 1-1 draw away to Jamaica on Tuesday.

West Ham's Michail Antonio equalised in stunning fashion for Jamaica midway through the first half after Timothy Weah's 11th-minute opener in Kingston.

USA remain top with 15 points from eight games, moving one point clear of Mexico, who play rivals Canada away later on Tuesday, as Jamaica climbed to fifth with seven points.

Lille forward Weah had surged into the left of the box, before firing home the opening goal in off the post from a tight angle.

Antonio netted his second goal in three games 11 minutes later, working his way into space before bending home an unbelievable effort into the top-right corner from 30 yards.

Jamaica's Fulham attacker Bobby Decordova-Reid had the best chance of the second half but inexplicably skied over the bar from close range, while Damion Lowe had a late headed goal disallowed for a push.

 An Alex Roldan goal in the 90th minute canceled out a Michail Antonio goal in the 82nd minute as El Salvador and Jamaica both netted a point
after battling to a 1-1 draw on Friday at the Estadio Cuscatlan in San Salvador.
The first half ended scoreless despite a sequence in the 39th minute off a corner kick in which El Salvador attempted two long-range shots, both of which hit the crossbar above
Jamaica GK Andre Blake.

Jamaica thought it may have had the winner with Antonio scoring his first-ever Jamaica goal late in the second half for a 1-0 lead. The attacker took the ball on the left-hand side of attack and charged forward, beating a pair of Salvadoran defenders and then GK Mario Gonzalez with a clever chip over the onrushing shot-stopper.

 Yet El Salvador still had something to say about the outcome of the match and found the 1-1 equalizer.
Roldan, wearing the captain’s armband, got into the box in the 90th minute and headed in a cross from the right-hand side, with the ball tucking under the crossbar and going in.

Next on the slate for El Salvador is a visit to Panama City to meet fellow Central
American rival Panama, while Jamaica heads back to Kingston where it welcomes the United States.

 

Argentina are on the cusp of World Cup qualification after extending their unbeaten streak to 26 games by edging Uruguay 1-0.

Angel Di Maria was the difference away to rivals Uruguay, his sublime seventh-minute strike lifting second-placed Argentina to victory on Friday.

Argentina – who tied their CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying record after going eight matches unbeaten on the road – are one win away from booking their spot at Qatar 2022 heading into Tuesday's showdown against Brazil.

Lionel Scaloni's Argentina defeated Uruguay 3-0 during last month's international window, after La Celeste failed to make the most of their chances against the Copa America champions.

It was a similar story on home soil in Montevideo, where Uruguay lacked a cutting edge in front of goal, despite Luis Suarez's best efforts.

With Lionel Messi on the bench, Di Maria wore the captain's armband and Argentina's stand-in skipper broke the deadlock in the seventh minute.

Giovani Lo Celso won possession and laid the ball to Di Maria, who curled a stunning shot into the top corner of the net.

Uruguay continued to press numbers forward and they had a chance to restore parity approaching half-time after Matias Vecino's brilliant turn created space for a shot, however it was easily dealt with by Emiliano Martinez.

Martinez was left scrambling as Facundo Torres' tricky cross almost looped over the Argentina goalkeeper before he palmed it behind for a corner in the 63rd minute.

As Uruguay pushed forward in search of an equaliser, it created more space for Argentina to attack and the visitors engineered a couple of decent openings before Messi was introduced off the bench during the closing stages.

With the minutes ticking down, Agustin Alvarez headed just over the bar for Uruguay, while Martinez almost saw the ball slip through his legs and into the net as the hosts' World Cup hopes remain in the balance.

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