Posted on June 10, 2012
By Jay O’Burgess
Their Chance from the Caribbean
Can they do it? A fairly direct question if I must say so. That query is aim at the Caribbean contingent left in World Cup Qualifiers for Brazil 2014. Guyana, which is situated in South America, Antigua and Barbuda and Jamaica are all that remain from the West Indies.
To think Antigua’s name is still in the hat for qualification at this the group stage proper while Trinidad & Tobago sit in Port of Spain still reminiscing about Germany 2006 and have left to pick up their teeth from the haymakers landed by the Guyanese this World Cup campaign.
As for Jamaica finally they maybe starting to accept the title as the premier Caribbean team. Too long now the Jamaicans have just been content to humble the the smaller islands and lose in close encounters to sides on the main land like Panama and the United States. Some may argue whether Guyana should even be in CONCACAF with the nation fixed at the apex of South America but everyone familiar with the geo-political runnings of the region knows that Guyana is just as Caribbean of any of the islands in the archipelago. I certainly didn’t expect Guyana to get this far and well I don’t think much of them as a threat outside the realm of cricket but they are here not at the very end but in touching distance.
So where are we? Let’s start alphabetically and team least likely to progress and that would be, Antigua and Barbuda. The men from St.John’s find themselves in Group A this term with the Jamaicans, the enigmatic Guatemala and the United States who need know introduction. The dual island nation will find little joy in this group and to be honest, as much I would like them to sneak their way through the back door. I can only see pure punishment for the Antiguans. Although some of their players ply their trade in the lower leagues of America and Britain the gulf is too great.
The “Golden Jaguars” of Guyana sit in Group B with the Central American elite. I find it ironic that Mexico, gave birth to the Aztec civilization one of the richest cultures in the New World, the Aztecs had an order a of warrior called the Jaguar Knight. This class of warrior got their name because they wore a jaguars skinned pelt into battle. Guyana’s first game was against Mexico. That is a pretty bad omen for the South Americans (a 3-1 Mexico win). This could have been a real hard lesson for the Guyanese. Luckily that is as bad as it gets for them. The Guyanese then have to take their talents to Mexico’s skillful neighbour Costa Rica, which is a staple in CONCACAF and can count itself as being one of the marquee teams in the region. No doubt the Ticos will be there at the end of CONCACAF qualifying.
Guatemala may not be as stern as the Mexicans and the Costa Ricans but they have had many a battle with the hegemony of the region for years so they know how to carry themselves. I liken them to Peek-A-Boo boxer who doesn’t have the a strong inside game or the power of a brawler but waits and wears down opponents with quick jabs. Guyana has something about them this term though but whatever it is they are going to need a flux of it if they are to have any chance.
Jamaica is the only side out of the trio I have a glimmer of hope for progression, with the emphasis on the word glimmer. The Reggae Boyz have been here before. They have made it to the hex and they have gone further by even making it to a World Cup finals but that was in 1998.
Jamaica were afforded big boy status by starting their campaign like the USA and Mexico at this stage of the qualifiers. They didn’t have to go through the long process of wading through teams like Bermuda and St. Lucia to get to this point. Sounds good, right? It does in theory but to me, Jamaica is a momentum team that needs to steam roll teams from the onset. Simply put, Jamaica has not been playing meaningful games of late, only friendlies. So I fear they may have rust or more importantly a blunted edge.
Jamaica is a team that has a fair set of runners and they are powerful but are they actually good with the ball? A side can easily pass around them. The Jamaicans have nothing to fear from Antigua; they should put them in their place. As for Guatemala, that will be close if Jamaica is really energized. The United States is different. The Americans know they have Jamaica’s number and Jamaica in recent games against “Uncle Sam’s Army,” have played really cautious and strained.
America knows that if it can hit Jamaica early it’s over for Kingston’s finest. Jamaica must and has to play their running, a quick game to progress to the next round.
The next stage after this is the hexagonal. The top two from these three groups and if one of these three Caribbean nations could make it to the hex they certainly have a chance to make it to Brazil.
Categories: Antigua and Barbuda, Caribbean, Guest Writer, Guyana, Jamaica, My Two Cents, World Cup Qualifying