Hallgrimsson: Reggae Boyz are heading in the right direction

By September 13, 2023
Jamaica's Demarai Gray (right) and Haiti's Steven Seance challenge for possession during their Concacaf Nations League fixture at the National Stadium on Tuesday. (Inset) Jamaica's Head coach Heimir Hallgrimsson. Jamaica's Demarai Gray (right) and Haiti's Steven Seance challenge for possession during their Concacaf Nations League fixture at the National Stadium on Tuesday. (Inset) Jamaica's Head coach Heimir Hallgrimsson. Concacaf

Faced with the challenge of establishing a winning culture, Reggae Boyz Head coach Heimir Hallgrimsson insists that he is trying to do so in ways large and small. Though his plans, where delivering according to expectations are yet to really take flight, the Icelandic coach remains adamant that his brand is becoming increasingly evident on the Boyz since he took the reins late last year.

 For Hallgrimsson, the manner in which the Boyz have started their Concacaf Nations League campaign, is an extension of their Gold Cup semi-final run, and that, he believes represents a step in the right direction.

The 58th-ranked Boyz currently head Group B on four points in League A competition, as they registered a 1-0 win over Honduras last Friday, followed by a come-from-behind 2-2 stalemate with Haiti at the National Stadium on Tuesday.

“Everybody has their opinion, and I cannot control what people feel about the team. The only thing I can say is that we will continue to work, and we will try to improve. We all see football in a different way, with different eyes how we want football to be played, but we are trying to develop our game and that's the only thing we can do. We will continue to do what we have been trying to do,” Hallgrimsson declared.

Having stressed that his is a culture that is about improvement, Hallgrimsson expressed pleasure with the Boyz display against Haiti when compared to that against Honduras.

In that opener against Honduras, the Boyz looked scrappy when in possession, as their passing and, by extension, movements off the ball was woefully lacking and it took Demarai Gray’s solitary goal to spare their blushes.

While the Boyz looked much better in their attacking transition against Haiti, they were sloppy defensively and that resulted in the opponents taking and early two goal lead courtesy of Don Louicius, who struck in the 12th and 15th minutes. However, Hallgrimsson’s side rescued a point through a 51st-minute own-goal and Bobby Reid’s 81st minute penalty.

“If we compare these two performances, we did much better this game than against Honduras, so we need to be pleased that we are going at least in the right direction, even though we didn't win today (Tuesday). I thought we had a much better game, even though we won against Honduras,” Hallgrimsson shared during a post-game press conference.

He continued: “If we look at the results, I think it is good that we did not lose this game, and performance wise, I would say, even at two-zero, I felt that we were better team in that moment. So, it (falling behind) was kind of a slap in the face and if we take away those two, three mistakes, we didn't give them chances. I think we played a really a good game.

“But a coach is always most pleased with the character and togetherness that they showed to win this game. They fought until the end, we wanted to win…I think everybody saw that we wanted to win, we pushed for the win. So, I'm mostly pleased with the character in the team, we stood our ground and I like that we played in a high tempo like that as well and we should build on this performance in my opinion.”

That said, Hallgrimsson pointed out that with the core of his team now identified, the expectation is that the Boyz hustle and competitiveness will remain on the upgrade, especially as they hunt qualification for next year’s 48th edition of the prestigious Copa America to be staged in the United States.

Their next assignments will be away to Grenada on October 12, before visiting Haiti in the Dominican Republic 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.

“We're always looking to improve, I said it in the last press conference, we're happy with what we have, but we're always looking out for improvements in every area of our game for players but also how we play, or we work together etc.

“So, we just have to improve how we do things and do as much as we can. We try to analyze the opponent where the weakness is, and I felt we had a chance to punish them better than we did. But the only way you can improve your conversion rate is to train it day after day,” the tactician ended.

Sherdon Cowan

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

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