Jamaica warmed up for the 48th edition of the Copa America with back-to-back tame displays in their World Cup qualifiers. A slender 1-0 home win over Dominican Republic was followed up with an insipid 3-2 triumph in Dominica.

It is back to the drawing board for Jamaica head coach Heimir Hallgrimsson, who will be chasing regional bragging rights when the leading 16 nations from the Caribbean as well as North and South America tackle the marquee tournament.

Although his ultimate goal would be for the Reggae Boyz to lift the crown in Florida on 14 July, Jamaica need to navigate themselves out of the group phases before trying to net the top prize.

The 2024 Copa America, hosted in the US from 20 June to 14 July, will feature 10 CONMEBOL members from South America and six invited countries from the North America and Caribbean CONCACAF region.

All eyes will be on Argentina, the defending champions and FIFA World Cup winners, to make it a hat-trick of trophies.

GROUP A | Argentina, Chile, Peru, Chile
Argentina hardly ever concede goals, kick-off their campaign with a star-stunned squad that includes Angel Di Maria, the legendary Lionel Messi and Gonzalo Montiel, whose spot-kick secured the World Cup final win over France.

Argentina beat both Chile (2-1) and Peru (2-0) in 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifiers. Yet Peru, who failed to get a shot on target in their November tie with Messi and his mates, had held Argentina to three draws on the spin before their last encounter.

Chile, the Copa America 2016 champions Chile, have been off colour recently under veteran manager Jorge Fossati, and rely on veterans — like Alexis Sanchez and Eduardo Vargas — to add sparks.

Canada should be better than their results suggest under recently appointed head coach Jesse Marsh, who won two caps for the US. He has a plethora of talents — like Alphonso Davies, Tajon Buchanan and Jonathan David — keen to start matches on Canada’s Copa America
Prediction: 1st Argentina, 2nd Canada, 3rd Chile, 4th Peru

GROUP B | Mexico, Ecuador, Venezuela, Jamaica

Mexico went two-and-a-half matches without scoring at the 2022 World Cup finals in Qatar. They brought in Jaime “Jimmy” Lozano as interim head coach for the 2023 CONCACAF Gold Cup, and after winning the top prize he was appointed on a permanent basis. Yet he is surprisingly shelving veterans for the Copa America, instead giving emerging talents an opportunity to showcase their silky skills.

This appears to be a hit and miss group with Ecuador, Jamaica and Venezuela all capable of beating understrength Mexico. However, the Mexicans will benefit from vociferous support in the stadiums.

Ecuador and Venezuela ended in a bore scoreless draw last October. Defensively-minded Ecuador have stars Moises Caicedo, Piero Hincapie and Willian Pacho. Venezuela have hit a purple patch by purring through their World Cup qualifiers.

Jamaica still have failed to produce eye-catching displays under former Iceland head coach Heimir Hallgrimsson, despite their array of English Premier League stars. The Boyz just grind out results, although tend to make good progress in tournaments mainly thanks to reliable shotstopper Andre Blake.

Prediction: 1st Mexico, 2nd Jamaica, 3rd Venezuela, 4th Ecuador

GROUP C | Uruguay, USA, Bolivia, Panama

Uruguay are a real force to be reckoned with, with stunning victories over Argentina and Brazil last year under head coach Marcelo Bielsa. Uruguay are a terrific blend of future stars and seasoned aces with names like Darwin Nunez, Luis Suarez, Manuel Ugarte and Fede Valverde enough to scare opponents.

The US will be under pressure with high expectations from their fans on home soil. Despite being FIFA’s highest-ranked CONCACAF side, there are flaws with defensive uncertainty and an inability to find the back of the net despite having an array of striking power from the likes of Folarin Balogun, Weston McKennie, Ricardo Pepi, Christian Pulisic and Haji Wright.

Panama, narrowly beaten by Mexico in the Gold Cup final, will kick themselves if they fail to reach the quarter-finals. They are brimming with confidence having hit a rich vein of form.

Bolivia are the weakest South American side, with a dreadful World Cup qualifying campaign. They are unlikely to end their 11-match run of failing to win a Copa America group stage match.

Prediction: 1st Uruguay, 2nd Panama, 3rd USA, 4th Bolivia
GROUP D | Brazil, Colombia, Paraguay, Costa Rica

Colombia have become a fantastic side since hiring head coach Nestor Lorenzo last year. They arrive at the Copa Amercia as the only South American nation unbeaten in World Cup qualifiers, including a 2-1 win over Brazil last year. Striker Luis Diaz can be lethal, and will be keen to better his tally of four goals at 2021 Copa America.

Five-time World Cup winners Brazil, having tasted three World Cup qualification defeats on the bounce for their worst run since 2001 are arguably no longer the force they once were. After their 1-0 reversal to Argentina last November, their first-ever home World Cup qualifying loss, Dorival Junior was brought in as head coach. Under Junior’s tutelage they beat England and drew with Spain. Hot-shots Vinicius Junior and 17-year-old wonderkid Endrick are aiming to transform Brazil’s fortunes.

Paraguay will be aiming to shoot down Brazil, but need a solid goalscorer. They are pretty solid defensively, and could be sensational if midfield maestro Miguel Almiron and striker Julio Enciso can replicate their silky skills seen in the English Premier League. Costa Rica face an uphill task to navigate their way to the knockout stages, and there will be big boots to fill between the sticks with iconic keeper Keylor Navas recently announcing his international retirement.

Prediction: 1st Colombia, 2nd Brazil, 3rd Paraguay, 4th Costa Rica

 

In an unfortunate developing situation, Jamaica and Aston Villa winger Leon Bailey has withdrawn from the Reggae Boyz 26-man squad named for the upcoming Copa America tournament. His inclusion and subsequent withdrawal comes amid controversy and conflicting statements from Bailey and his representatives.

Bailey, who was suspended for breaking curfew during the November international break, has not featured in Jamaica's recent matches, including the 2026 World Cup qualifiers against the Dominican Republic and Dominica earlier this month. Following the release of the squad by the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) Wednesday, Bailey took to Instagram on Wednesday night to label the selection as "misleading information."

The winger’s father, Craig Butler, reiterated Bailey’s stance on social media, stating that his son's decision to step back from international duty remains unchanged. "We kindly ask that you respect his wishes at this time," Butler wrote. "Posts made on social media that are surfacing at this time is a misrepresentation of his position. We wish the Reggae Boyz well in the Copa America competition and he, along with his management team, will continue to support the Jamaica National Team at all levels … change must come…Respect and One Love for all."

The JFF has not commented on whether they received a commitment from Bailey to participate in the tournament.

Bailey, 26, recently expressed his deep love for his country and his frustrations with the national team environment. In a recent interview with The Cut, he said, "Honestly I don’t know when I will be back in the national team colours. I love my country to the core. I am always here in Jamaica. I can’t tell when I will be back in the national team colours. Once I feel like I have seen a little bit of change … I don’t know how to explain it but why I’m taking a break is because it is too much for my head sometimes."

He continued, "A lot of people don’t understand or look deeply into why I am representing. I really love my country. I love my country so much that I am willing to get injured, willing to risk not going back to a starting Aston Villa team. I make so many sacrifices to make the national team. People don’t understand that and that’s what hurts me. It’s too much for my head sometimes."

The Reggae Boyz squad for the Copa America is as follows:

Goalkeepers: Shaquan Davis, Andre Blake, Coniah Boyce-Clarke, Jahmali Waite

Defenders: Dexter Lembikisa, Di'Shorn Bernard, Greg Leigh, Damion Lowe, Michael Hector, Richard King, Wesley Harding, Ethan Pinnock, Jon Bell, Amari'i Bell

Midfielders: Kasey Palmer, Kevon Lambert, Bobby Reid, Alex Marshall, Joel Latibeaudiere, Karoy Anderson

Forwards: Shamar Nicholson, Renaldo Cephas, Michail Antonio, Demarai Gray, Kaheim Dixon, Leon Bailey*

 

With Bailey's participation in doubt, the Reggae Boyz will have to navigate the Copa America without one of their key players, unless further developments arise. The situation remains fluid, and fans are eagerly awaiting clarity on Bailey’s final decision regarding his national team duties.

Jamaica's assistant coach, John Wall, voiced strong criticism following the Reggae Boyz's 3-2 win over Dominica in their CONCACAF World Cup qualifier on Sunday. Despite securing three points, Wall expressed disappointment with Jamaica's performance and the substandard condition of the pitch at Windsor Park.

"The result was better than the performance," Wall stated bluntly. "We should have killed this game a lot earlier based on the chances that we had. The conversion rate was low. The best of it was the result—we got away with three points."

The state of the pitch was another sore point for Wall, who didn't mince words about its impact on the game. "It was more based on the pitch," he said regarding the slow tempo of Jamaica’s play. "There was a lot more to ask for. It was a 120m in depth and 72/75m wide; that’s a cricket pitch. For me, it’s not up to standard."

Reflecting on the match, Wall acknowledged Dominica's commendable performance and their effective counter-attacks. "Overall, Dominica performed well, and counter-attacked with the two, three players that they had up front. But overall we should have contained the game much better and just finished it off with the chances that we had," he added.

Jamaica entered the match on a high note following their 1-0 victory against the Dominican Republic in Kingston on June 6. However, despite creating numerous scoring opportunities, the Reggae Boyz struggled to find the net until the 31st minute when Shamar Nicholson broke the deadlock.

Kaheim Dixon doubled Jamaica’s lead just before halftime, scoring from close range to send the team into the break with a 2-0 advantage. The second half mirrored the first, with Jamaica continuing to squander opportunities. Dixon missed a glaring chance by hitting the upright from inside the box, while Nicholson also failed to convert several chances, often thwarted by goalkeeper Glenson Prince.

With 10 minutes remaining, Nicholson finally added a third goal from the penalty spot after a Dominica defender handled the ball inside the box. This goal proved crucial as Dominica mounted a late comeback.

Javid George capitalized on a counter-attack, beating an advancing Jahmali Waite and scoring into an empty net. Moments later, Troy Jules fired in a stunning free kick from just outside the 18-yard box, making it 3-2.

Nicholson had a chance to secure the win but lobbed the ball over the advancing Prince and the crossbar, leaving Jamaica to hold on for a nervy finish.

 

 

 

A 16th minute strike by Shamar Nicholson proved the difference as Jamaica's senior Reggae Boyz edged Dominican Republic 1-0 to open their Concacaf World Cup qualifying account on a positive note at the National Stadium on Thursday.

Nicholson’s strike, his 17th international goal and third in World Cup qualifiers, highlighted an unsatisfactory evening for Heimir Hallgrimsson’s side, as the defence was at times vulnerable, while the wasteful attacking front was marred by a lack of composure and poor decision-making in the final third. This was much to the disappointment of the sizeable crowd which surprisingly turned out despite the early kickoff and rainfall.

Still, for Hallgrimsson, the most important outcome was securing the three points, which propelled the Boyz to second in Group E on three points, same as leaders Guatemala, who hammered Dominica 6-0 in their opening clash on Wednesday.

“We should have finished it off, but when you are winning 1-0, it's always uncomfortable because then it only needs a corner or a freekick and the ball goes in. So you never kind of feel relaxed, but we should have killed the game off with the chances we got. Apart from that, it (our performance) was below par, and we can do much better than we did today,” Hallgrimsson said in a post-game interview.

“But given a lot of these players are coming back from not playing, it was kind of given that some of them would not be ready for a competitive match right away. We can for sure improve from this performance, but the most important thing is that we got the win and we kept a clean sheet,” he added.

After a cagey start by both teams, the Jamaicans eventually showed some attacking intent in the 12th minute through the fleet-footed Renaldo Cephas, who utilised his pace to good effect to breach Dominican Republic's defence, but he couldn't get on target at that point.

Dominican Republic tried to play their game, through steady and penetrative build ups, and it was one of those attempts to open up in attack that allowed the Jamaicans to break the deadlock on the counter. This, as Cephas won possession on the break and left the last defender in his wake on his way into the 18-yard box where he played a pass across goal to Nicholson, who applied a cool finish beyond custodian Miguel Lloyd.

The Boyz tried to press the ascendancy from there, but were unable to make their dominance in possession count, as their star man Michail Antonio was subjected to heavy physical treatment throughout. In fact, the Jamaicans next best chance of the first half was courtesy of Bobby Reid's 33rd-minute freekick from just outside the 18-yard box, which went just wide of the left upright.

Much like they did at the start, both teams were again slow into rhythm on the resumption, as both lacked enterprise in their build ups, and as such, failed to create anything meaningful in the attacking third.

It was until the 72nd minute that the Jamaicans again came to life when Cephas’s blistering pace down the left channel forced Luiyi De Lucas to take fell him inside the danger area and gift the Jamaicans a penalty. However, Reid couldn't make the 12-yard kick count as his effort went at a decent height for Lloyd to parry.

Eight minutes later, Reid again unleashed Cephas, who had Deshane Beckford alongside him in a two-on-one counter, but the former selfishly hogged possession and inevitably had his tame effort blocked by the advancing Lloyd.

Though they continued to threatening in a sustained attacking spell in the latter stages of the contest, the Jamaicans were found wanting in the decision-making which robbed them of any real opportunity to add to their tally.