Hallgrimsson hails Reggae Girlz W'Cup exploits as inspiration heading into Nations League, as Boyz hunt Copa America berth

By September 01, 2023
Jamaica's Reggae Girlz at the Fifa Women's World Cup. (Inset) Reggae Boyz Head coach Heimir Hallgrimsson. Jamaica's Reggae Girlz at the Fifa Women's World Cup. (Inset) Reggae Boyz Head coach Heimir Hallgrimsson.

Jamaica’s senior Reggae Boyz Head coach Heimir Hallgrimsson says his team will not only draw inspiration from senior Reggae Girlz Fifa Women’s World Cup exploits, but more importantly, build on the positives from their own Gold Cup campaign to achieve future success.

Hallgrimsson’s sentiments came as he named a 23-player squad for the upcoming Concacaf Nations League tournament, where they will be hunting qualification for next year’s 48th edition of the prestigious Copa America to be staged in the United States.

The Boyz, who will contest League A of the Nations League, are grouped with Suriname, Haiti, Honduras, Cuba and Grenada.

They are scheduled to open their account on home soil against Honduras on September 8, before tackling Caribbean rivals Haiti, four days later. Both games are scheduled for the National Stadium.

Following those games, Hallgrimsson’s side will play away to Grenada on October 12, before visiting Haiti on October 15.

To get to the Copa America, the Jamaicans are required to finish in the top six, as such, they will need to secure one of two spots from their group to progress to quarter-finals.

Should they do so and go on to win their quarter-finals fixture, the Boyz would automatically secure berth to Copa America, however, if not, then they would take the playoff route for a second shot at qualification.

With that in mind, Hallgrimsson, alluded to the Reggae Girlz, who became the first male or female team from the Caribbean to contest the knockout rounds at a World Cup since Cuba’s feat in 1938.

On the way to that accomplishment, the Girlz held top-ranked France and Brazil to goalless stalemates and also secured a first ever World Cup win with a 1-0 scoreline over Panama.

“A lot of positivity surrounds Jamaica’s football at the moment, the Girlz performance should give us energy for our games and we should try to use that to our benefit to go forward. But before I go forward, I want to look back at the Gold Cup, we were very satisfied with that tournament and we got even more positivity from analyzing those games,” Hallgrimsson said during a press conference on Friday.

“We feel that we are getting stronger as a unit and as a team. We had some good performances from players, some were new faces at the tournament with very little preparation period prior and we know those players will grow into the team and play an even bigger role than they did in the Gold Cup. So lot of positives, if we talk tactically, we know we can improve in areas like our attacking game, as well how we possess the ball,” he added.

On that note, Hallgrimsson only made four changes from that Gold Cup squad with Jonathan Russell, Kaheem Parris, Javain Brown and Kemar Lawrence being replaced by Tayvon Gray, Kasey Palmer, Greg Leigh and former Arnett Gardens standout Renaldo Cephas.

The American-born Gray, 21, who currently represents New York City FC, won the MLS Cup in 2021 and Campeones Cup in 2022. The right-back also represented the United States in multiple games at the youth level.

Aware that Jamaica contested the Copa America in 2015 and 2016, the Icelandic coach is hoping to also achieve the feat during his tenure, as he believes playing at that level will be integral to their preparations for a shot at making the 2026 World Cup.

“As I said we were very pleased with the Gold Cup so there are not much new faces for this camp. Time spent together is hugely important to us, so again qualifying for the Copa America will help us even more in preparation for the World Cup,” Hallgrimsson declared.

“Firstly, we want to win and be number one in Nations League. That is one thing, it is just an extra spice that doing well in this competition will give us a chance to play in the Copa America, an even bigger competition than the Gold Cup.

“In the process of growing as a unit, it is really important that we qualify for competitions like this to keep the growth going. So, we are just preparing ourselves playing in big tournaments like this,” he reasoned.

Moving up the Fifa rankings is another component of added significance for Hallgrimsson, who again made note of the Reggae Girlz rise from 43rd to 37th, as well as his team’s own move from 66th to 58th.

“Fifa ranking means a lot in national team football today. For example, in the Nations League the top four ranked teams United States, Canada, Mexico and Panama, don’t need to play in the group stage, they automatically qualify for the quarter-finals and that is a huge benefit for them.

“So we want to be in that position to not need to play a whole group stage to be able to play for top four. We want to be top four in the ranking and I would say if we get to 40, it would be a huge success for us,” Hallgrimsson noted.

Squad: Goalkeepers –Andre Blake, Jahmali Waite, Conniah Boyce-Clarke

Defenders –Damion Lowe, Tayvon Gray, Ethan Pinnock, Amari’i Bell, Di’Shon Bernard, Dexter Lembikisa, Adrian Mariappa, Greg Leigh

Midfielders –Kasey Palmer, Joel Latibeaudiere, Daniel Johnson, Kevon Lambert, Bobby Reid

Forwards –Leon Bailey, Michail Antonio, Demarai Gray, Dejuan Richards, Cory Burke, Shamar Nicholson, Renaldo Cephas

Sherdon Cowan

Sherdon Cowan is a five-time award-winning journalist with 10 years' experience covering sports.

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