CONCACAF president Victor Montagliani believes next year's Copa America will serve as perfect preparation for the 2026 World Cup.

Joining the 10 South American teams in the 2024 Copa America, which will be held in the United States, will be six teams from CONCACAF.

The USA, Mexico, Jamaica and Panama are already assured of their places in the tournament, with Costa Rica or Honduras and Canada or Trinidad and Tobago to take the remaining two spots.

With the expanded, 48-team World Cup in 2026 also taking place in North America, CONCACAF president Montagliani hopes the Copa America presents the perfect opportunity for the federation's teams to prepare.

"It's evidence of when leadership and two very important confederations come together and put football first. The game is going to win here because you're going to have a great tournament next year," Montagliani told Concacaf.com.

"I think we realised early on that we needed to make sure that we made our own competitions better, like our Nations League, our Gold Cup.

"This was an opportunity, after speaking with my counterpart, Alejandro Dominguez, to come together and partner with them, not just on the men's side like we have now with Copa America, but also on the women's side with a Women's Gold Cup.

"This fits in well with our strategy to increase not only the quantity of competitions, but also the quality of competitions, and this will help our teams prepare for the World Cup in our backyard.

"FIFA is also going to have the Club World Cup here in 2025 and I think from a fan's perspective, I'm not sure we've ever had this, so it's a great time to be involved in the game, at whatever level you are.

"I think it's a bit of a coming out party for our region. Obviously, we've struggled in the past at many levels, but I think, as I said a long time ago, for the work we've done in the last six years, we deserve the right to think long-term.

"We also now deserve the right to enjoy the present and all the football that is coming our way."

Reigning Copa and world champions Argentina were placed in Group A in Thursday's draw, alongside Peru, Chile and Canada or Trinidad and Tobago. The USA will face Uruguay, Panama and Bolivia in Group C, while Brazil will go up against Colombia, Paraguay and Costa Rica or Honduras in Group D.

Two CONCACAF teams should also fancy their chances of progressing from Group B, with Mexico and Jamaica – who count the likes of Leon Bailey, Michail Antonio and Demarai Gray in their squad – going up against Venezuela and Ecuador.

The draw opened up as such that another Argentina-Brazil final could be on the cards.

Jamaica's senior Reggae Boyz achieved what will be remembered as one of the most remarkable comebacks in Concacaf Nations League history, as they stunned Canada 3-2 in a lively second-leg League A quarterfinal encounter, at BMO Field in Toronto, on Tuesday night.

Spurred by a brace from Shamar Nicholson, who scored in the 63rd and 66th minutes to take his international tally to 16 goals, and a 78th-minute Bobby Reid penalty, the Jamaicans overturned a 1-2 deficit to win on the away goal rule. The tie ended 4-4 on aggregate.

Alphonso Davies (25th) and Ismael Kone (69th) got Canada's goals.

Heimir Hallgrimsson's side in the process of securing their spot in the Nations League semi-finals, as well as the prestigious CONMEBOL Copa America 2024, rewrote the history books, as it was their first ever victory on Canadian soil, and the first time that the Caribbean side was scoring three goals against a North American opponent on their turf.

The Reggae Boyz are now set to lock horns against United States in one semi-final, in March, while Mexico, who overturned a two-goal deficit and defeated Honduras 4-2 on penalty, will meet Panama in the other, much like they did in this year's Gold Cup final.

Meanwhile, Canada will face Trinidad and Tobago in one Play-In fixture, while Costa Rica and Honduras will meet in the other. The winner of those Play-In contests will qualify for next year's Copa America.

After taking a 2-1 lead in their rain-interrupted first-leg clash at the National Stadium, Canada pressed that ascendancy at the start in the packed BMO Field and could have easily extended their advantage in the first 15 minutes, but for two incredible saves from Jamaica's goalkeeper Andre Blake.

The host inevitably got their breakthrough when Davies met a cross from the left and fired a shot that was initially deflected by Blake but spun backward into net.

Jamaica needed a response and minutes after should have pulled level after the re-start, but Leon Bailey's dry spell in the national setup continued, as he slammed his left-footed shot into crossbar.

The equalizer eventually came three minutes past the hour when Damion Lowe showed grit to dispossess an opponent and slipped a pass through for Nicholson, who rifled a right-footer past Canada's custodian Milan Borjan.

With the momentum now in their favour, the Jamaicans took the lead three minutes later on a well-worked counterattack in which Reid found Demarai Gray, and the former Everton mam swept a pass across the 18-yard yard box for the towering Nicholson to finish from close range.

However, their celebrations were short-lived, as Canada regained the advantage on aggregate soon after when Davies served up a cross for Kone to steer past Blake.

Still, the Jamaicans pressed and got the golden opportunity to not only pull level, but more importantly go ahead on the away goal rule, when Stephen Eustaquio handled an intended cross from Lowe inside the danger area. Reid stepped up to take the pressure-packed 12-yard kick and calmly converted to silent the home fans, while the small section of Jamaican supporters went into frenzy.

From there, Jamaica only needed to defend their lines and if that wasn't pressure enough, given their tendency to concede late goals, the task became even more difficult when Gray was shown a second yellow and given marching orders in the 84th minute.

Despite the numerical disadvantage, the Boyz managed to absorb all that Canada threw at them in the final minutes plus nine minutes of added time to snare a momentous victory.

 

As the excitement continues to build towards Thursday's start to this decisive window in the 2023-24 Concacaf Nations League, the other pair of League A quarter-final fixtures are also expected to serve up a treat, as Jamaica host Canada and Honduras welcome Mexico for their respective first leg matches on Friday.

All four sides are aiming to advance to the Concacaf Nations League final in March, as well as secure qualification to next year's CONMEBOL Copa America.

Jamaica vs. Canada

Friday's action kicks off with Jamaica and Canada renewing their rivalry at the National Stadium.

On the line is Jamaica’s unbeaten streak in Concacaf Nations League play, as they have amassed nine wins and five draws in 14 all-time Nations League games, including three wins and a draw in Group B on their way to the quarterfinals.

In 22 all-time matches between the two, the Canadians have won 10 and Jamaica six, with the other six fixtures ending as stalemates. However, Jamaica currently boasts and immensely talented group to improve their record, provided they execute accordingly.

Demarai Gray was sensational in the group stage, as he tallied three goals, while Shamar Nicholson continued his rich form in Nations League action with two goals. He also moved his all-time Nations League assists mark to six.

Bobby Reid, another player capable of producing the spectacular, supplied two goals and an assist. He was also present defensively in terms of his eight ball recoveries.

Canada, who is one of the teams to receive a bye to this phase of the tournament due to their FIFA rankings, enters the fray after finishing as runners-up in last year's edition.

They will be keen to make a return trip to the finals, but they will also be mindful of the fact that their previous match-up in Kingston ended in a goalless stalemate in October 2021, during Concacaf World Cup Qualifying, and also of the fact that Jamaica's squad has been significantly boosted since then.

Still, many of the players who led Canada to their second ever FIFA World Cup qualification, are back in the fold for this two-way series, including star striker Jonathan David, winger Junior Hoilett and flying left back Alphonso Davies.

David and Davies are tied for the most Nations League goals for Canada with five each, while Davies has 14 goals in 42 total appearances with Canada. Hoilett delivered top performances for Canada during the 2023 Concacaf Gold Cup, scoring a goal and chipping in two assists.

That said, it is anybody's guess which way this first-leg engagement between two talented teams will go, if not again ending in a stalemate.

Honduras vs. Mexico

Long-time rivals Honduras and Mexico square off at the Estadio Nacional Chelato Ucles in Tegucigalpa.

This will mark the 44th encounter between the two nations, with Mexico accounting for 26 wins and Honduras seven, with the others 10 ending in stalemates. Mexico also outscored the opponents 81-29 in those games.

Honduras secured their quarterfinals berth by virtue of a second-place finish in Group B. After opening with a 0-1 loss to Jamaica, Honduras rallied to earn seven points from their final three matches.

Edwin Rodriguez was a force to be reckoned with in the group stage. He scored two goals and contributed two assists. 

Luis Palma was an attacking threat as well with a goal and two assists.

Deybi Flores has for years been a workhorse in the Honduras midfield, and the four matches in Group B were no exception. He completed 241 of 273 passes and made four ball recoveries.

Many of the players who helped Mexico win the 2023 Concacaf Gold Cup will lead El Tricolor into the opening 90 minutes in Tegucigalpa. Those include goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa, who won the Gold Cup Golden Glove Award for the four clean sheets he recorded during the tournament.

Striker Santiago Gimenez, the hero of the final for his late goal to defeat Panama 1-0, is also back in the ranks, as is ever-dangerous free-kick specialist Luis Chavez, who scored two goals in the Gold Cup and led the team in shots with 18.

The last time Honduras faced Mexico was in the Gold Cup when the latter registered a comfortable 4-0 victory.

By all indications, Mexico are heavily favoured to secure three points.

Reggae Boyz winger Demarai Gray scored the winner as Al-Ettifaq secured a 3-2 victory over Al-Wehda in the Saudi Pro League on Saturday.

Dutch former Liverpool and Newcastle midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum gave Al-Ettifaq the lead in the 18th minute before Craig Goodwin equalized for Al-Wehda in the 37th minute to ensure the teams went into halftime locked at 1-1.

Six minutes after the restart, Goodwin got his second to give Al-Wehda a 2-1 lead. With nine minutes left, Wijnaldum got Al-Ettifaq’s equalizer.

The game seemed to be heading for a draw before, in the eighth minute of added time, Gray cut inside on his right foot and unleashed a fierce strike from just outside the box into the bottom left corner of the goal to give Al-Ettifaq the 3-2 win.

Al-Ettifaq are now seventh in the league standings with 20 points from 11 games.

The October window of League A of the 2023-24 Concacaf Nations League is complete. Many players delivered top performances over the course of the matches, yet these 11 players stood out the most at their respective positions.

 

Goalkeeper

Yannis Clementia, Martinique

Clementia was the only goalkeeper to register back-to-back clean sheets in the window, as he made six saves and three clearances in the two games for Les Matinino.

Defenders

Leo Abena, Suriname

Abena did the job at both ends. He scored in the 4-0 win versus Grenada and had five steals and six clearances over the two games.

Jonathan Rivierez, Martinique

Rivierez was another reason why Martinique did not concede a goal during the window in their two matches. He had a jaw-dropping 14 clearances on top of four steals.

Denil Maldonado, Honduras

Honduras were desperate for an early goal to quell any nerves in their finale against Cuba, and Maldonado came through with a score in the early going. He also had a steal, two clearances and completed 94 percent of his passes.

Alvin Jones, Trinidad and Tobago

Jones has been excellent for the Soca Warriors in helping them finish in the top two in Group A, as he added another goal to his tally and made seven clearances.

Midfielders

Adalberto Carrasquilla, Panama

Carrasquilla continues to show why he is one of the best players in the Concacaf region. He had the opening goal in the 3-0 win versus Guatemala and completed 87 percent of his passes during the window.

Reon Moore, Trinidad and Tobago

Moore seemingly covered every blade of grass for Trinidad and Tobago, scoring two goals and completing 91 percent of his passes.

Luis Palma, Honduras

Palma kept opposing defenders on their toes with a team-leading 11 shots during the two games. He also had an assist in the decisive 4-0 win against Cuba.

Forwards

Edgar Barcenas, Panama

Barcenas delivered the opening goal for Panama in their 2-1 win at Curacao and added an assist and three steals for good measure in the Canaleros’ two matches.

Rangelo Janga, Curacao

Janga was superb for Curacao in October, as he accounted for three of the team’s six goals, including a brace in the 5-3 victory over Trinidad and Tobago. He also completed 100 percent of his passes. 

Demarai Gray, Jamaica

Gray showed his class in Jamaica’s two victories, scoring a goal in each game from five shots and completing 89 percent of his passes.

Both Jamaica and Honduras are on their way to the 2023-24 Concacaf Nations League quarterfinals after claiming victories against Haiti and Cuba, respectively, while Suriname staved off relegation by downing Grenada on the final match day of Group B of League A.

Jamaica clinched the top spot in Group B by rallying for a 3-2 victory over Haiti at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. Jamaica finished in first place with 10 points to book their quarterfinal spot, while Haiti finishes with three points and has been relegated to League B.

It was an ideal start for Haiti, as they grabbed a 1-0 lead in the 15th minute through Frantzdy Pierrot, who polished off a quick counterattack with a header into goal off a cross from Fafa Picault.

But Jamaica would strike right back just a few minutes later in the 18th to even the score at 1-1, with Demarai Gray taking advantage of a misplayed clearance from the Haitian defense.

It stayed level going into the second half when things began to tilt in Jamaica’s favor. The Reggae Boyz started to take control and seized a 2-1 lead in the 57th when a cross from Michail Antonio reached the boots of Shamar Nicholson, whose shot squeezed past Haiti’s goalkeeper Jhony Placide for the goal.

Jamaica kept moving forward in search of an insurance score and it dutifully arrived in the 66th thanks to Leon Bailey, who slipped past the Haitian defense onside to receive a free kick and finish past Placide for a 3-1 Jamaica lead.

Haiti refused to give up though, and Pierrot made it a 3-2 affair in the 87th by heading in a corner kick.

But the spoils belonged to Jamaica, as they avoided any stoppage time drama to pocket the victory.

 

Honduras vs. Cuba

In a must-win match for both sides, Honduras topped Cuba 4-0 at the Estadio Nacional Chelato Ucles in Tegucigalpa, Honduras to qualify for the quarterfinals. Honduras finish second in the group with seven points, while Cuba complete their campaign in third-place with five points.

Honduras could not have asked for a better start, as they scored early in the 9th to help settle any nerves, with Denil Maldonado spearing home a header at the far post off a cross from the left flank.

Honduras were flying and quickly it became 2-0 to the home side in the 13th, as a Cuba giveaway led to a quick break and a pass into Antony Lozano, who finished past Cuba’s goalkeeper Raiko Arozarena.

The Catrachos kept their foot on the gas into the second half and stretched the lead to 3-0 in the 67th through Romell Quioto, who calmly converted a penalty after Alberth Elis was fouled in the area during a corner kick.

Honduras then added a late goal for good measure, with Bryan Rochez finishing from inside the area in the 90th to complete the 4-0 score-line.

 

Suriname vs. Grenada

Four first-half goals powered Suriname to their first victory of their CNL campaign in a 4-0 final versus Grenada at the Dr. Ir. Franklin Essed Stadion in Paramaribo, Suriname.

Suriname complete the 2023-24 CNL with five points and have avoided relegation with the win, while Grenada finish with one point and have been relegated to League B.

Djevencio van der Kust opened the scoring for the home side in the 12th minute with a left-footed laser from outside the area to make it 1-0 to Suriname.

The home side kept things rolling and the lead was doubled to 2-0 in the 27th when 2019-20 CNL top scorer Gleofilo Vlijter found the back of the net by turning in a rebound after a Van der Kust shot hit the crossbar.

Suriname stayed on the front foot and the scoreboard read 3-0 in the 35th thanks to Leo Abena, who was able to squeeze a shot in over the line after Grenada goalkeeper Jason Belfon had made a save moments prior.

Suriname then tacked on a fourth in the final moments of the first half, this time via an own goal from Grenada’s Jacob Bedeau, who accidentally deflected a deep Suriname cross into his own net for a 4-0 Suriname lead.

The second half saw Suriname calmly see things out despite a few looks from Grenada to secure the precious victory to keep themselves in League A for another campaign.

While it was not the most polished performance, Jamaica’s senior Reggae Boyz did enough to ease past Grenada 4-1 in their Concacaf Nations League Group B encounter and move one step closer to a League A quarterfinals berth.

Despite starting without a number of the regulars, Heimir Hallgrimsson’s side raced to an early 2-0 lead courtesy of Kevon Lambert (13th) and Shamar Nicholson (23rd), before Demarai Gray (74th) and stand-in captain Bobby Reid (87th), made the three points safe.

Trevon Williams (30th) got Grenada’s consolation in the keenly contested encounter at the Kirani James Athletics Stadium.

With the win, their second of the tournament, the Jamaicans moved up to seven points, three ahead of second-placed Cuba (four points), who were scheduled to face third-placed Honduras (three points) in the group’s late kickoff.

Elsewhere, fourth-placed Haiti (three points) and fifth-placed Suriname (two points), played out a 1-1 stalemate in Paramaribo. Grenada remains at the foot of the standing with a solitary point.

It was a patient start by the Reggae Boyz in St George’s, as they took their time to breakdown Grenada’s defence and eventually found the go-ahead goal from a set play.

Gregory Leigh’s weighted corner kick was deflected towards goal by Romario Williams, but the effort was brilliantly kept out by Jason Belfon diving full stretch to his left. However, the custodian had no response to Lambert’s follow-up shot in a goalmouth melee.

The Boyz went close to doubling the lead three minutes later when Gray embarked on a darting run and played off a pass to Nicholson, whose effort was charged down by Darius Johnson, putting his body on the line.

Grenada belatedly came to life in attack a minute later with Josh Gabriel rifling a left-footed drive from a distance, but Jahmali Waite, who started in place of captain Andre Blake, proved equal to the task.

That was the start of a good, sustained attacking spell for Grenada, as they camped out in the Jamaicans half like a pack of hungry wolves, but their hunt for the equalizer proved fruitless.

They later paid for it when Nicholson extended the Jamaicans lead. The towering striker picked up a pass from Williams, slipped his marker and easily tucked a left-footed effort past Belfon.

Grenada pulled one back on the half-hour mark through Williams’s deflection on Johnson’s follow-up effort. The initial shot by Gabriel was kept out by Waite.

Both teams created chances at the backend of the half but failed to capitalise. While the Jamaicans went in 2-1 up, it was Grenada that enjoyed the momentum at the break.

Unlike they did at the start, the Boyz were more purposeful on the resumption and had opportunities to push further ahead. However, they were denied by faulty shooting and some good work by Belfon, at times.

On one of those occasions, Belfon did well to block Williams's shot from close range in the 58th minute.

Four minutes later, a good through pass from Reid found debutant Karoy Anderson and the 19-year-old dismissed his marker, but selfishly went for a shot from a tight angle.

Grenada almost pulled level in the 70th when Regan Charles-Cook got behind defenders, but Waite left his line well to avert the danger.

Jamaica asserted their authority in the latter stages of the contest and inevitably pushed further ahead through Gray. The former Everton man used his pace to good effect on the left channel, as he charged into the box and placed a right-footer past Belfon.

Reid added another three minutes from time. He got on the end of Daniel Johnson’s free kick and made no mistakes from close range.

Jamaica’s senior Reggae Boyz Head coach Heimir Hallgrimsson says qualifying for next year’s Copa America is of utmost significance for the staff to properly polish the team’s playing style, as he again stressed the need for consistent improvement to drive their 2026 FIFA World Cup ambitions.

“I think we can, as a national team, improve a lot of areas. The JFF as well, I think can do a lot more, but we are closer to what the best national teams are doing. Playing style, I think we are getting there slowly, but in order to improve our playing style we have to work with the same players.

“So, I think we have found a core of players that we think we can continue working with and then we can develop a playing style,” Hallgrimsson declared during a press conference at the Jamaica Football Federation’s offices on Friday.  

Hallgrimsson’s sentiments came on Friday as he announced the addition of Charlton Athletic pair Karoy Anderson and Michael Hector to his 23-member Reggae Boyz squad for their upcoming Concacaf Nations League fixtures away to Grenada and Haiti on October 12 and 15, respectively.

London-Born midfielder, Anderson, 19, is a first-time call up, while Hector, 31, returns to the setup after an almost two-year absence.

Both, along with goalkeeper Kemar Foster, Dexter Lembikisa, and West Ham United’s Michail Antonio, replace goalkeeper Coniah Boyce-Clarke midfielder Kasey Palmer, forward Dujuan Richards and defenders Amari’i Bell and Ethan Pinnock, who all miss out due to injuries among other reasons.

“We cannot develop a playing style picking 12 new players every camp because then we would have to start over. Being a national team coach, we know that there are two training in a game, so there is not a lot of time to get the team on the pitch. So, in that case, I think we are doing well with the time, but again, if we want to continue to grow it is important to go to finals and go to Copa America and spend a month with the team to grow on and off the pitch,” Hallgrimsson shared.

The 56th-ranked Jamaicans, who bettered Honduras 1-0 and came-from-behind for a 2-2 stalemate with Haiti, both at the National Stadium, currently sit atop Group B in League A on four points, same as second-placed Cuba.

Victories in both games, would guarantee Hallgrimsson’s side a spot in next month’s quarter-final where they would face Canada or Costa Rica, provided Cuba does not surpass them on goal difference, should they too win their two encounters.

If the Boyz were to finish in the runners-up position, they would have United States or Mexico to contend with in their hunt for a Copa America berth. The 48th edition of the quadrennial international men's tournament is scheduled for June 20 to July 14, in the United States and will act as a prelude to the 2026 World Cup, also to be hosted in North America.

“We have a lot to improve on and we know that so now going for these tricky away matches, it's going to be a tough, tough task. To get into the quarterfinal is important for so many reasons because if we win that game, it will secure us to place in the semi-final and hopefully from there we will get to the final and that gives us the right to play Copa America next summer,” the tactician stated.

“So, for many reasons this is important for our team. Number one, to grow to play in tournaments that really will test us to play against the best teams. So, it is an important step for developing a good team to qualify for the World Cup in 2026. We want to put all our emphasis on this camp coming up and go for six points to finish top of the group,” he added.

“We have quite a few versatile players in the squad, and I think that is a benefit to a small nation like Jamaica. So, in our minds I think we have solutions to the problems, and we decided to go for a young player [Anderson] to look at this camp to see how we can manage him within the players group we have,” Hallgrimsson ended.

Squad: Andre Blake, Kemar Foster, Jahmali Waite, Javain Brown, Tayvon Gray, Di’Shon Bernard, Michael Hector, Greg Leigh, Adrian Mariappa, Damion Lowe, Dexter Lembikisa, Bobby Decordova Reid, Daniel Johnson, Joel Latibeaudiere, Kevon Lambert, Karoy Anderson, Demario Phillips, Michail Antonio, Leon Bailey, Demarai Gray, Shamar Nicholson, Romario Williams, Renaldo Cephas

 

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.

Jamaica...2
Ade (51st OG), Reid (81st)
 
Haiti...2
Louicius(12th, 15th)
 
Jamaica's senior Reggae Boyz maintained their positive start to the Concacaf Nations League, but did so the hard way, as they had to come from behind to secure a 2-2 stalemate with Haiti at the National Stadium on Tuesday. 
 
A 51st-minute own-goal by Ricardo Ade and Bobby Reid's 81st-minute penalty, rescued a point for the Reggae Boyz, after Don Louicius's first half brace in the 12th and 15th minutes.
 
With the point, the Jamaicans remain in pole position to complete a top two finish in Group B of League A, as they sit on four points, same as Cuba, who edged Suriname 1-0 in their contest. Haiti inched up to two points in third followed Grenada and Suriname on one point each, but that was expected to change at the end of the game day, as Honduras were leading Grenada 1-0 in the late group fixture.
 
Following their win against Honduras last week, Heimir Hallgrimsson's side would have been confident of securing another three points and they started more purposefully which all but signalled their intent.
 
They fired a warning shot in the second minute through Kasey Palmer, whose left-footed shot was parried by Jhony Placide who got down well to his right in goal for Haiti. The resulting corner presented another opportunity, but Shemar Nicholson steered his header wide of the target.
 
However, the Jamaicans had the wind knock from them as it was the Haitians that broke the deadlock against the run of play, courtesy of Louicius with his first senior goal. The player sporting the number 11 jersey, shook a challenge from Damion Lowe and later fired past Andre Blake. 
 
Before the Boyz could recover, they found themselves further behind when Mondy Prunier orchestrated a counterattack and played a pass on a platter for Louicius to capitalise on some lacklustre defending by the Jamaicans as he fired home beating Blake all ends up.
 
Jamaicans continued to press and created a few openings from which they should have at least pulled on back, but faulty shooting and a lack of composure proved their undoing.
 
The best of those chances came on the stroke of half-time when Nicholson found himself in on goal but drove his right-footer wide of the target, as Haiti remained 2-0 up at the break.
 
With the lead in their favour, the Haitians came out spiritedly on the resumption and Louicius tested Blake with a left-footed strike from a distance, but the custodian got down well to gather.
 
The Jamaicans needing a saviour  gradually came to life in attack and like it was in their opening contest against Honduras, Gray came to their rescue, albeit fortuitously, as his soft effort along the ground was deflected in by Ade.
 
Nicholson should have pulled the Boyz level in the 54th from a break. However, he was hesitant in getting the shot off from close range and was later dispossessed by a recovering defender.
 
Though on the backfoot, the Haitians didn't just merely absorb pressure, they continued the probe to add to their tally and almost did so on the hour mark when Prunier again played provider, this time to Danley Jean, whose firm eft-footer from just inside the 18-yard box, rattled the crossbar.
 
The Jamaicans responded two minutes later and almost pulled level when Kasey Palmer's shot from the top of the 18-yard box and was just kept out by Placide.
 
It was an intriguing end-to-end battle at that point as Haiti went on the counter a minute later, Prunier dismissed his marker, but couldn't get beyond Blake, who left his line well in a one-on-one situation. 
 
After applying consistent pressure coupled with a few timely substitutions, the Jamaicans eventually pulled level when Reid fired home from the penalty spot, after one of those substitutes, Romario Williams's shit was handled inside the danger area.
 
The Jamaicans thought they had all three points in the bag in the dying moments of the contest when Reid's well-struck shot from a distance had goal written all over it, but for a well-timed dive from Placide, who ensured Gabriel Pellegrino's team held on for a share of the spoils.
 
The teams will now head into the break before the return leg fixtures in October. 
 
Teams: Jamaica -Andre Blake, Damion Lowe (Dishon Bernard 74th), Amari'i Bell, Ethan Pinnock, Javain Brown, Leon Bailey, Bobby Reid, Demarai Gray (Dujuan Richards 74th), Joel Latibeaudiere (Daniel Johnson 74th), Kasey Palmer, Shemar Nicholson (Romario Williams 79th)
 
Subs not used: Jahmali Waite, Coniah Boyce-Clarke, Kevon Lambert, Demario Phillips, Adrian Mariappa, Renaldo Cephas, Gregory Leigh, Tayvon Gray, Kevon Lambert
 
Booked: Bernard (83rd), Johnson (90+3)
 
Haiti -Jhony Placide, Ricardo Ade, Djimy-Alexis, Garven-Michee Metusala, Alex Christian, Jeppe Friborg, Danley Jean (Francois Dulysse 87th), Carl Sainte, Don Louicius (Shaynder Borgelain 70th), Steven Seance, Mondy Prunier
 
Subs not used: Alexandre Pierre, Garrisone Innocent, Derrick Etienne Jr, Jayro Jean
 
Booked: Sainte (30th), Djimy-Alexis (63rd, 90th(red), Jean (80th), Ade (80th)
 
Referee: Cesar Ramos (MEX)
Assistant referees: Alberto Morin (MEX); Marco Bisguerra (MEX)
Fourth official: Enrique Santander (MEX)
Match Commissary: Egbert Lacle (ARU)

“A great feeling” is how Reggae Boyz winger Demarai Gray described netting his first goal on Jamaican soil.

The 29-year-old scored his third goal for the Reggae Boyz and his first in Jamaica to help the team secure a 1-0 win over Honduras to kick off their CONCACAF Nations League Group A campaign at the National Stadium on Friday.

After a scrappy and cagey first half, the Al Ettifaq winger latched on to a through ball from Fulham midfielder, Bobby Decordova-Reid, to comfortably slot home Jamaica’s winner in the 64th minute.

“It was important that we got the three points because that’s all that matters in the end,” Gray told the media after the match.

“It wasn’t the nicest game. Credit to Honduras because they were aggressive and made it difficult for us but in the second half, we came back together and came up with a game plan. You have to be patient in these games and wait for the moment and, luckily, the moment came for me on this occasion. We’ll look back on what we did well and what we did badly and focus on the next game,” he added.

The former Everton man also described the feeling of scoring his first goal in front of the Jamaican crowd.

“Scoring in front of the fans was a great feeling but, most importantly, we take the three points. The fans came out to watch us so we needed to give them something to celebrate and we did that,” he said.

“We have to give thanks for them because without them, we’re half as strong. When we play at home, especially, we have to give our best. Jamaica as a team are going to keep growing,” he added.

Gray will hope to continue his excellent form to start his Reggae Boyz career when the Jamaicans host Haiti at the same venue on Tuesday.

 

Jamaica...1

Gray (64th)
 
Honduras...0
 
Demarai Gray ensured Jamaica's senior Reggae Boyz opened their 2023 Concacaf Nations League account on a winning note, as his all-important strike edged Honduras 1-0 in a lukewarm affair that fell way below expectations at the National Stadium on Friday.
 
Gray, who recently completed a move from English Premier League (EPL) outfit Everton to Al-Ettifaq in the Saudi Pro League, fired home his third international goal in the 64th minute to secure all three points for the Reggae Boyz, putting them in pole position to complete a top two finish in Group B of League A.
 
The win has Heimir Hallgrimsson's side on three points, two ahead of Cuba, Haiti, Grenada and Suriname, who all have one point each after playing out stalemates in their respective opening encounters.
 
Cuba and Haiti were goalless in their contest played in the Dominican Republic, while Grenada and Suriname were 1-1 in St George’s.
 
At the National Stadium in Jamaica, the Reggae Boyz started positively and threatened with their first build up, but Dujuan "Whisper" Richards couldn't find space to get a shot off. 
 
Honduras followed up with a quick response, as Luis Palma fired a warning shot from just over 18 yards out, which went straight in the arms of Jahmali Waite, who was given starting duties in place of front-line goalkeeper and captain Andre Blake, out sick.
 
The Jamaicans thought they had the breakthrough in the fifth minute, but Bobby Reid's goal was from an offside position.
 
From there, the tempo of the game dropped with both teams looking scrappy when in possession, the Jamaicans in particular, as their passing and, by extension, movements off the ball was woefully lacking.
 
That disconnect between Jamaica's defence and attack allowed Honduras some semblance of ascendancy and the visitors almost made it count in the 20th when Palma again tried his luck from a distance, but again found Waite in the way as the young goalkeeper took flight to tip over the crossbar. 
 
The Boyz looked their best in the latter stages of the first half and almost found the go-ahead goal in 44th when Richards's stinging left-footer from just outside the 18-yard box came back off the right upright, as they went into the break goalless.
 
It was more of the same on the resumption with the Jamaicans struggling to find cohesion, while Honduras tried to play their game. 
 
The Central Americans should have gone ahead in the 57th when Palma found himself in one-on-one situation with Waite, but his delicate chip shot just went over the crossbar.
 
That missed opportunity later proved costly, as Gray who was playing his first game on home soil, gave the Jamaicans something to celebrate.
 
A tidy build up from the back orchestrated by Ethan Pinnock, found Reid, who played off a one-time pass that sent Gray on his way and the fleet-footed player left his marker before firing past Edrick Menjivar in goal for Honduras.
 
Though they tried, Honduras couldn't find the elusive equaliser, as the Jamaicans held firm defensively for the win.
 
Gray, in a post-game press conference admitted that it wasn't the most polished performance by the team but welcomed the three points. 
 
"It's good to get the winning goal my first time back home. It wasn't the best performance, but we got the three points which was important," he said.
 
Teams: Jamaica -Jahmali Waite, Damion Lowe, Amari'i Bell, Ethan Pinnock, Javain Brown (Tayvon Gray 66th), Leon Bailey, Bobby Reid (Kevon Lambert 77th), Demarai Gray (Renaldo Cephas 82nd), Dujuan Richards (Shemar Nicholson 66th), Joel Latibeaudiere, Kasey Palmer (Daniel Johnson 66th)
 
Subs not used: Coniah Boyce-Clarke, Kevon Lambert, Dishon Bernard, Daniel Johnson, Demario Phillips, Romario Williams, Adrian Mariappa, Renaldo Cephas, Gregory Leigh
 
Booked: Latibeaudiere (68th), Reid (68th), T Gray (90+2)
 
Honduras -Edrick Menjivar, Devron Garcia, Luis Vega (Riky Zapata 65th), Bryan Acosta (Jorge Benguche 77th), Joseph Rosales (Alexander Lopez 89th), Antony Lozano, Maylor Nunez, Andy Najar (65th), Denil Maldonado, Luis Palma, Deybi Flores
 
Subs not used: Juergen Garcia, Marlon Licona, Raul Santos, Jorge Alvarez, David Ruiz-Ochoa, Carlos Pineda, Daniel Carter, Franklin Flores
 
Booked: Acosta (29th), Vega (38th), Maldonado (39th), Rodriguez (73rd), Zapata (74th)
 
Referee: Daniel Quintero (MEX)
Assistant referees: Ibrahim Martinez (MEX); Pablo Hernandez (MEX)
Fourth official: Victor Carcores (MEX)
Match Commissary: Egbert Lacle (ARU)

Demarai Gray has completed his move from Everton to Saudi Arabian side Al-Ettifaq.

The 27-year-old Reggae Boy becomes the latest Premier League player to head to the Saudi Pro League, joining Jordan Henderson and Georginio Wijnaldum at the side managed by Steven Gerrard.

Gray’s departure from Goodison Park for an undisclosed fee believed to be £8million comes after his relationship with manager Sean Dyche broke down.

The winger aired his grievances on Instagram, saying it was “difficult to play for someone who doesn’t show you respect as a person”.

Dyche responded by claiming Gray had effectively gone on strike, making clear he did not want to train as he believed he had secured a move away.

Gray made 75 appearances for Everton, scoring 12 goals, after returning to England from Bayer Leverkusen in 2021.

He said in a statement: “After two years with Everton, it’s time to say goodbye. I wish everyone at the club the very best and will be forever proud to have played for this great team.

“To the fans, you were always incredible – thank you for your support. You made it a privilege to wear the shirt.

“There has been a lot of speculation about my situation all summer. The truth is, I gave my all to this club on and off the pitch through good and bad.

“I was ready to play as much football as possible this season but it felt like this was not going to happen. It’s time for my next chapter. I am match fit and excited to get playing.”

Gray will join his new team-mates following international duty with Jamaica.

Sean Dyche has been compelled to deliver “the truth” about Demarai Gray after the winger claimed the Everton manager does not respect him.

Gray has not played this season, with Dyche claiming the player did not want to train after being linked with moves to Saudi Arabia and Fulham.

However, nothing materialised before Friday’s European deadline – Saudi’s is Thursday – but after being left out of the squad again for the 2-2 draw at Sheffield United, Gray took to Instagram to air his grievance, writing: “It’s so difficult to play for someone who doesn’t show you respect as a person.”

Dyche has now taken the unusual step of addressing the issue in an interview with club media.

“It’s an unfortunate one because I try to keep our business in-house. I think on this occasion, it’s right to reply,” Dyche said.

“Demarai made it clear that he felt he was getting a move (away from Everton) and he told us a move was done, which was interesting to hear from a player.

“We reminded him of the truth of the fact that no moves are done without this club’s say so.

“We look after these players; we look at all the different ways of looking after them: mental and wellbeing is big, the tactics and technical, the physical.

“When it comes to a time like that then you go, ‘Well, hang on a minute. You made it clear you didn’t want to train, you didn’t want to be here, and you also said there was a move that was a done deal’.

“We said it’s not a done deal because this club is the most important. This club will make decisions on the future of you as players and not the other way around.

“I think it’s right to let our fans know that’s the truth.”

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

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