World Cup Qualifiers - Concacaf

World Cup Qualifiers - Concacaf (95)

After a lengthy absence from the team, Jamaica Reggae Boyz midfielder JeVaughn Watson is hoping to lead the way, as a senior player, when the team looks to bounce back from a tough start to its World Cup qualification campaign.

With two matches already gone in the hexagonal round, the Jamaicans are yet to get a point on the board following a 2-1 away loss to Mexico and dismal showing in a 3-0 loss against Panama at the National Stadium.

Even so, the decision to recall Watson, ahead of the team’s crucial clash against Costa Rica, could certainly be seen as a decision out of left field.  Despite once being a lynchpin of the national team’s midfield, the player has not appeared for the Reggae Boyz since 2019 and has not played much football locally either.

The 37-year-old, however, believes he can still be of value to the squad and hopes to anchor its efforts to get points on the board.

“I’m naturally a robust player, I break up plays try to keep the unit together, try to build a vibe leading up to the game.  Whenever we are having fun, you always get the best out of us,” Watson said.

“I’ll be a senior player, try to get the group together.  Try to go out there and be a menace to midfield, to break up players and move us forward, link with each other, and try to see what we can do from there.”

 

 

Defender Kemar Lawrence and forward Norman Campbell have joined the rest of Jamaica’s Reggae Boyz after facing immigration issues upon arrival in Costa Rica.

Lawrence and Campbell were initially denied entry into the South American country on arrival based on residency documentation issues.  Based on the country’s immigration laws four groups of countries can enter the country with or without a visa.  Group one states that citizens of these countries do not require a Costa Rican visa. They only need a valid passport with at least one day left on arrival in Costa Rica with a return ticket.

Lawrence is a United States green card holder and Campbell is a citizen of Slovenia.  Residents of both countries are in the group allowed entry into Costa Rica without a visa.  Lawrence, however, lost his official green card documentation during the Gold Cup.   

Campbell's visa was expired, and Costa Rica immigration did not accept evidence of his Slovenian residency.  He did not have a Slovenia passport in his possession.  Since losing his documents Lawrence has received written permission to travel in the form of a stamp in his passport from US Homeland Security.  It was, however, not accepted by the Costa Rica embassy.

Assistance was, however, sought through diplomatic channels, through Jamaica’s Ambassador out of Mexico with responsibility for Costa Rica and the Costa Rican Ambassador in Jamaica, as well as Jamaica’s Minister of Sports, the Honourable Olivia Grange. The efforts eventually led to the relevant government minister in Costa Rica signing off on allowing both players to enter the country.

The Jamaican team has had a torrid start to the CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers following a narrow 2-1 loss to Mexico and 3-0 thrashing at home at the hands of Panama.  The team will look to get things on track in tomorrow night’s encounter against Costa Rica at 8:00 pm.

Panama stayed undefeated in the Final Round of Concacaf World Cup qualification for Qatar 2022 with an emphatic 3-0 victory over Jamaica on Sunday at Independence Park in Kingston.

Panama now has four points after Sunday’s win and last Thursday’s opening 0-0 home draw versus Costa Rica, while Jamaica is still searching for its first point of qualification following Sunday’s result and Thursday’s 2-1 loss to Mexico.

Panama opened the scoring in the 14th minute through an unlikely scorer. Center back Andres Andrade stepped into the centre circle and picked off a pass, but rather than find an attacker, he opted to dribble forward and fire off a shot before he got into the penalty area. The attempt surprised Jamaica goalkeeper Andre Blake, and Panama was off the mark, 1-0.

Panama looked for a second in the 35th minute, with Jose Luis Rodriguez getting the ball in the box and looking to curl a shot past Blake, but the Jamaican shot-stopper had the shot in his sights and made the stop. Two minutes later, Rodriguez turned provider, putting in a cross of his own for Rolando Blackburn, whose header also ended up in Blake’s hands.

But Blackburn used that as experience to double the lead in the 39th minute, beating Liam Moore to an Eric Davis cross and sending his header past Blake to give the Central Americans the 2-0 lead heading into the halftime break.

Jamaica manager Theodore Whitmore made a pair of changes at halftime, bringing Junior Flemmings and Devon Williams into the contest and also made another pair of subs in the 73rd minute, including inserting Shamar Nicholson, who scored in the 2-1 loss to Mexico, for Michail Antonio, who made his Jamaica debut on Sunday.

Jamaica had perhaps its best chance of the game in the 77th minute, with a shot from Nicholson forcing Panama GK Luis Mejia into action. But moments later, it was Panama on the counter-attack, and midfielder Adalberto Carrasquilla played in Cecilio Waterman, who sent his finish past Blake to tie a bow on the victory for Panama.

Jamaica closes out the window with a trip to Costa Rica, while Panama will put its undefeated record on the line against Mexico in Panama City.

 

 

The United States' stuttering start to World Cup qualifying continued after they were held to a 1-1 draw by rivals Canada.

Brendan Aaronson's 56th-minute opener was cancelled out within six minutes by Canada forward Cyle Larin as the USA drew consecutive games on the road to Qatar 2022.

Chelsea star Christian Pulisic returned to the starting line-up on Sunday after missing the USA's Octagonal opener against El Salvador following a positive coronavirus test.

Weston McKennie, though, was axed from the squad following a "violation of team policy", while Giovanni Reyna sat out due to a hamstring injury.

Canada made a lively start on the road in Nashville, where Larin checked his run and got on the end of Alphonso Davies' pass, but Matthew Turner somehow pushed the shot onto the crossbar in the 14th minute.

USA went close to breaking the deadlock five minutes before the break when Pulisic's shot hit the post from close-range.

CONCACAF Gold Cup champions the USA, though, did open the scoring via Aaronson, who slid onto the end of Antonee Robinson's cross 11 minutes into the second half.

The lead was short-lived however as Davies showed off his incredible pace, driving towards the penalty area before teeing up Larin for a simple tap-in just past the hour-mark.

Despite the draw, the USA extended their unbeaten streak to 11 matches across all competitions.

The United States and Canada both have two points from their opening two fixtures.

Mexico preserved their 100 per cent record in CONCACAF World Cup qualifying after edging Costa Rica 1-0 away from home.

Orbelin Pineda converted a penalty in first-half stoppage time and it proved to be enough on Sunday as Mexico made it two wins from two games in the Octagonal section of qualifying on the road to Qatar 2022.

Mexico head coach Gerardo Martino did not travel to Costa Rica after undergoing eye surgery and assistant Jorge Teller deputised in the absence of the former Barcelona and Argentina boss.

El Tri were underwhelming in their opening 2-1 win over Jamaica and they made another timid start on the road – Mexico goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa forced into a save to deny Costa Rica captain Bryan Ruiz.

Mexico had a great chance to break the deadlock three minutes later in the 18th minute after Rogelio Funes Mori found himself in a one-on-one situation with Keylor Navas, who thwarted the forward from close range.

Visiting Mexico did draw first blood on the stroke of half-time – Pineda scoring from the spot after Bryan Oviedo was penalised for a foul on Andres Guardado.

Costa Rica continued to push numbers forward and almost salvaged a point at the death, however, Keysher Fuller's 92nd-minute effort rattled the woodwork.

Jamaica Reggae Boyz forward, Shamar Nicholson, has insisted a goal inside the world-famous Azteca stadium was scant consolation as the team was extremely disappointed to lose late on to Mexico in the opening round of the World Cup qualifiers.

On Wednesday, Nicholson’s well-taken equaliser, scored in the 65th minute, gave the less than full-strength team plenty of belief that they could leave Mexico with at least a share of the spoils.

Although they seemed well on their way to doing so, those hopes were cruelly dashed with less than five minutes remaining when Henry Martin put away an opportunistic finish in the 89th minute.

“It was devastating, to lose the game with just five minutes remaining was really shocking for the team,” Nicholson said.

“The good thing is we don’t have much to think about the game that has passed.  The main focus is the one coming up on Sunday.”

The team will be eager to bounce back with maximum points against Panama at the country’s National Stadium on Sunday.  Their central American opponents have proven stubborn opposition in the past, however, and Jamaica has won just 2 of its last eight games against them.  Jamaica did win the last encounter between the teams, a 1-0 triumph at the 2019 Gold Cup.  The Boyz will also be buoyed by the return to line-up of several of its UK-based contingent who were unable to take part in the Mexico fixture due to the country's UK travel red-list status.

 

Mexico clinched the start they wanted, opening their CONCACAF World Cup qualifying campaign with a dramatic 2-1 win over Jamaica. 

Henry Martin's 89th-minute strike was the difference at an empty Estadio Azteca, helping El Tri avoid an embarrassing result as they look to secure a spot at Qatar 2022. 

Mexico dominated possession throughout Thursday's fixture and out-shot Jamaica 27-5, but Reggae Boyz goalkeeper Andre Blake thwarted the hosts until Martin's last-gasp winner. 

A botched clearance by Jamaica in the 50th minute left the ball at Alexis Vega's feet, with multiple Mexico players in an offside position, he held the ball and worked his way toward the middle of the field along the top of the penalty area before sending a right-footed shot past a diving Blake.

Shamar Nicholson equalised 15 minutes later for Jamaica, firing a shot past Guillermo Ochoa after a poor clearance by Jorge Sanchez. 

Martin gave Mexico the three points in the end, collecting a pass from Luis Romo that was redirected by Cesar Montes and firing home just inside the top of the area.

Nearly four years after the infamous loss to Trinidad and Tobago that saw the United States fail to qualify for Russia 2018, a young USA side opened the final round of 2022 World Cup qualifying with a 0-0 draw at El Salvador on Thursday. 

USA head coach Gregg Berhalter's inexperienced team, missing star Christian Pulisic and goalkeeper Zack Steffen, managed to take a point before a raucous crowd in San Salvador following their CONCACAF Gold Cup success last month.

It might not have been a scintillating performance for a side coming off Gold Cup and CONCACAF Nations League triumphs, but the USA will take it after opening their 2018 qualifying campaign with successive losses. 

Nine players in the USA starting line-up were making their first appearance in a World Cup qualifier, with DeAndre Yedlin and Tim Ream the only exceptions, but the group did not appear rattled on the road. 

USA had a tantalising chance after eight minutes when Miles Robinson got free behind the El Salvador defence on a Gio Reyna free-kick, but saw his header sail over the goal. 

El Salvador's best opportunity of the first half came in the 33rd minute when California-born Alex Roldan cut in from the left after a short corner and curled a ball over USA goalkeeper Matt Turner that grazed the top of the crossbar. 

The home side had a chance to take the lead in the 57th minute, as Turner had to dive to his left to save a header from Eriq Zavaleta off a corner from Marvin Monterroza, the first and only shot on target for El Salvador. 

Weston McKennie had a clear header in the 72nd minute, however the USA and Juventus midfielder could not put home Reyna's cross, one of several missed opportunities for the visitors.

The result snapped the USA's nine-match winning streak, but they still have suffered only one defeat in their last 20 games dating to November 2019, a 2-1 friendly loss at Switzerland in May. 

 

An understrength Jamaica Reggae Boyz will begin their bid to return to the FIFA World for the first time in 23 years with a match at the world-renowned Estadio Azteca, against familiar opponents Mexico, on Thursday.

In response to the UK’s quarantine rules, as it relates to travel to nations that have been added to the red list, the English Premier and English Football Leagues made the decision to not release players for World Cup Qualifiers in those countries.

The league’s issues stem from a mandatory 10-day quarantine period that players would have to undergo once they return to England.  The stipulation would see players missing at least two games with possibly more time required to get up to fitness standards.  

 While Jamaica itself remains in the amber zone, which involves much less stringent restrictions, Mexico and Costa Rica who the team will face in away contests this round are both in the red zone.

In response, the Jamaica Football Federation has named a large 35-man squad, with all the English-based players set to miss out on the fixtures against Mexico and Costa Rica.

The players based in the English leagues will rejoin the squad for the team’s match against Panama on Sunday, where among them West Ham striker Michail Antonio is expected to make his debut.

Against Mexico, at the Stadio Azteca, it has not been a happy hunting ground for the Jamaicans, who have drawn once and lost 5 times in 6 matches.  The team's lone point came in a 0-0 draw in 2013.

Despite not having a full-strength squad at his disposal, however, Theodore Whitmore, who was in charge of the team on that occasion believes the team could repeat the feat.

“I am very disappointed not having the full complement of players, but the show must go on. We know the challenges we face; we have a game to play. We have to prepare ourselves as best as possible going into this game,” Whitmore said.

“I wouldn't say pressure because every game the national team plays everybody expects positive results, good performances.  I don't think these games coming up are an exception. We are looking forward and we want to put the best team out there at all times and we are looking forward to a good result against the Mexico team.”

Mexico will also not have some of its top attacking players such as Raúl Jiménez, from EPL team Wolverhampton, and Hirving Lozano, from Napoli (Italy) and will also not have Héctor Herrera, from Atlético de Madrid, present in the midfield.  The Mexicans will also be forced to play in front of an empty stadium after being sanctioned by FIFA for homophobic chants earlier this year.  The match will kick off at 9:00 pm.

 

Jamaica Squad vs Mexico: Andre Blake (Philadelphia Union), Dillon Barnes (Queens Park Rangers), Dennis Taylor (Humble Lions), Damion Lowe (Al-lttihad), Adrian Mariappa (pending), Alvas Powell (Philadelphia Union), Kemar Lawrence (Toronto FC), Devon Williams (Miami FC), Junior Flemmings (Birmingham Legion), Cory Burke (Philadelphia Union), Shamar Nicholson (Charleroi), Oniel Fisher (LA Galaxy), Blair Turgott (Ostersund), Norman Campbell (FK Cukaricki), Ricardo Morris (Portmore United), Anthony Grant (Swindon Town), Tyreek Magee (Eupen), Lamar Walker (Miami FC), Peter Vassell (Indy Eleven), Javon East (Santos de Guápiles), Romario Williams (Qadsia SC), Javain Brown (Vancouver Whitecaps), Richard King (Cavalier).

Rest of squad: Michail Antonio (West Ham United), Leon Bailey (Aston Villa), Liam Moore (Reading FC), Amari’i Bell (Luton Town), Wesley Harding (Rotherham United), Ravel Morrison (Derby County), Daniel Johnson (Preston North End), Ethan Pinnock (Brentford City), Kevin Stewart (Blackpool), Bobby Reid (Fulham), Jamal Lowe (Swansea City), Kemar Roofe (Rangers).

The Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) could be breathing a sigh of relief as the country remained on the amber list in the latest update of the United Kingdom’s Traffic Light System, which applies to travel to and from the country.

Earlier this week, the Premier League announced that, based on the current quarantine rules, it would not release players for the upcoming round of World Cup qualifiers to countries on the UK’s red list.  It was later joined by the La Liga and Serie A competitions and yesterday, England’s second tier, the EFL also joined the list of clubs.

The concerns stem from the fact that players returning from red-listed destinations would, based on the rules, be forced to quarantine for 10 days.  The leagues argue that those conditions would lead to players missing games, in addition to having to make up for fitness requirements.

Unless an agreement can be worked out the decision will impact the availability of several teams competing in the final round of the CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers, which kick off on September 2.

At current, Mexico, Panama, and Costa Rica are the teams that have been placed on the red list.  The USA, Jamaica, El Salvador, and Honduras are all on the amber list, while Canada has been moved to the green list.

Individuals returning from red list countries are required to quarantine in a managed hotel for 10 days and are subject to at least two COVID-19 tests.

Fully vaccinated individuals travelling to countries on the amber list would be subject to taking a COVID-19 test two days after arriving or before.  Non-vaccinated individuals returning from countries on the amber list would have to undergo the mandatory 10-day quarantine period.

Based on the interpretation of the rules and the club’s specific stipulation of not allowing players to travel to red list countries, the CONCACAF countries on the amber and green list could potentially have their players available.  Baring a change of circumstances, affected countries on the red list would be left short-handed.  However, vaccine stipulations, which it seems are required to exempt individuals from mandatory quarantine, could complicate things.

Jamaica has at least 10 players who ply their trade between the Premier League and England Football League (EFL).  Among the EPL players are Andre Gray (Watford), Leon Bailey (Aston Villa), and potentially Michail Antonio (West Ham) who recently received official documentation after switching from England.  It is currently not known how many of the team's overseas players are vaccinated.

 

 

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