Jamaica’s Reggae Boyz have established themselves as genuine title contenders in the flagship Concacaf Gold Cup.

Over the three consecutive editions, the Jamaicans were beaten finalists in 2015 (3-1 to Mexico) and 2017 (2-1 to the United States), and were losing semi-finalists in 2019 (3-1 to the U.S.), performances that underline their pedigree in the biennial tournament.

Having come so close to being crowned champions, the only thing left for the Reggae Boyz at this stage it seems is to lift the trophy.

Still, veteran Damion Lowe says while the team will be targeting the title, it’s a goal they aim to pursue with an air of cautious optimism, and with as little pressure as possible.

“There is no pressure because people always write us off, and even now people don’t give us the recognition that we deserve and how good we are as a team, especially in tournaments,” he said.

“Nobody expected us to become a powerhouse in Concacaf as we started from scratch and built the programme,” Lowe added.

When Jamaica kick-starts its Group C campaign against Suriname at Exploria Stadium in Orlando on July 12, Lowe notes that the plan is to let the country’s football do the talking.

“So for us, the job is the same and that’s to prove people wrong. We will do our best and let the football speak for itself,” said the Al-Ittihad defender, who will be participating in his third Gold Cup tournament.

Lowe, 28, says he has grown to love playing in the Gold Cup.

“Playing in the Gold Cup tournament is always a joy. We are grateful for the experience and how far we have come as a nation and we just want to move on to higher heights,” he said.

The Jamaicans, who are currently hosting a pre-tournament training camp in Orlando, have quality within their ranks with the likes of Bayer Leverkusen winger Leon and Bailey and former Manchester United wonder kid Ravel Morrison.

With the pair, plus a host of English-born players and local-bred talent, the Boyz are quite capable of ruffling more than just a few feathers in the 2021 edition of the confederation’s marquee competition.

The Boyz also have group stage matches against Costa Rica and Guadeloupe.

Meanwhile, Lowe says he is still getting used to life playing in the Egyptian topflight.

 

Haiti arrives at the Concacaf Gold Cup with momentum gained from their 4-1 victory over Bermuda in the Prelims to qualify for the main tournament.

This will be the eighth Gold Cup for Les Grenadiers, as the Haitian squad is nicknamed. Unlike some other teams in the tournament, Haiti has full focus on the Gold Cup, since earlier this year the squad was eliminated from World Cup Qualifying.

Though the team once won the earlier version of the Concacaf tournament (in 1973), they have never won the modern version, called the Gold Cup. Coach Jean-Jacques Pierre, who is a former Haitian national team player and is in his first year coaching the squad, will have the players looking to build on their dynamic play from the qualifying tournament.

With a mix of players from teams abroad in Europe sprinkled in with Major League Soccer members and others from Caribbean clubs, Pierre has an intriguing ensemble to manage.

Haiti is coming off their best-ever participation in the 2019 Gold Cup, where the team reached the semifinals. One of their best matches in the tournament was a thrilling comeback 3-2 quarterfinal victory over Canada, who is one of their Group B opponents this year.

Haiti came up against eventual winners Mexico in the semifinal, but fought hard in a 1-0 extra-time loss, with the goal against them coming from a penalty kick taken by Raul Jimenez.

Frantzdy Pierrot was the break-out star for Haiti in the 2021 Prelims. The forward, who plays in France’s Ligue 2, scored three of the team’s four goals in the match against Bermuda. Duckens Nazon, another experienced forward for Haiti who plays in Belgium, scored the final goal from the penalty spot.

Both also scored for Haiti in the team’s electrifying 2019 Gold Cup run, so the pair is likely to slide back into a scoring groove for the team once the tournament begins.

Having ultimately qualified on July 6, Haiti is a bit of a wildcard in Group B, since other coaches haven’t had much advance notice in order to prepare for the squad. Haiti opens up Gold Cup play on July 11 against the United States

French Guiana will be out to tame resurgent Trinidad and Tobago when the two sides meet in the Second Round of the 2021 Gold Cup Prelims on Tuesday at DRV PNK Stadium in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

The winner will advance to the Gold Cup group stage and slot into Group A along with Mexico, El Salvador and Curacao.

But first things first, a tricky test awaits for both sides.

Tuesday’s contest will mark French Guiana’s first match of the Prelims and their first official match since their group finale in League B of the 2019-20 Concacaf Nations League, a 3-1 win over Saints Kitts and Nevis in November 2019.

Nevertheless, with a team boasting many European-based players, including forward Sloan Privat, who scored one of his country’s two goals in the 2017 Gold Cup, and defenders Kevin Rimane, formerly of Ligue 1 giants Paris Saint-Germain, and Stade Brestois 29’s Ludovic Baal, plus Boulogne goalkeeper Simon Lugier, Les Yono Dokos have the pieces in place for a good performance.

While Trinidad and Tobago’s campaign in Concacaf World Cup Qualifying for Qatar 2022 ended in a disappointing fashion in the First Round, the Soca Warriors are enjoying a resurgence under Interim Head Coach Angus Eve.

Trinidad and Tobago returned to their high-flying ways in a 6-1 triumph over Montserrat in the First Round of the Prelims, with Kevin Molino, Marcus Joseph and Judah Garcia among the goal-scorers.

A win against French Guiana would provide a massive momentum boost going into the Gold Cup group stage.

 

Guatemala are a step closer to the 2021 Concacaf Gold Cup group stage after posting a 4-0 victory against Guyana in the First Round of the 2021 Gold Cup Prelims on Saturday night at DRV PNK Stadium in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Bermuda rolled into the Second Round of the 2021 Concacaf Gold Cup Prelims thanks in part to a Nahki Wells hat trick in an 8-1 victory over Barbados on Friday night at DRV PNK Stadium in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

With the result, Bermuda advance to face Haiti in the Second Round of the Prelims with a berth in the 2021 Gold Cup group stage at stake on Tuesday. It will also serve as a rematch of their 2019 Gold Cup group stage match won by Haiti, 2-1.

The 8-1 scoreline also tied a Gold Cup record for most goals in a match (9).

It was a dream start for Bermuda, who raced out to a 1-0 lead just 17 seconds into the match when Wells turned a Zeiko Lewis cross into the net, a call that was confirmed by VAR.

The Wells goal also made some history, as it marked the fastest goal in Gold Cup history.

Bermuda were hungry for more and a hard hit from Lewis was cleverly back-heeled by Wells, leaving Barbados GK Liam Brathwaite flat-footed, to give Bermuda a 2-0 lead in the 14’.

The Bermuda attack was rolling and Reggie Lambe stretched the lead to 3-0 in the 29’ with an excellent left-footed finish.

Captain Dante Leverock was next to get into the act for Bermuda, as he smashed a header into net for a 4-0 lead.

Despite the deficit, Barbados kept plugging away and they were handsomely rewarded in the 45+1 minute when Hadan Holligan banked in a right-footed shot off the post to cut the gap to 4-1.

Bermuda halted any Barbados momentum and restored their four-goal advantage when a deep cross resulted in an own goal and a 5-1 lead in the 60th minute.

The Gombey Warriors were eager to add more and it became 6-1 in the 66’ with Kane Crichlow’s right-footed finish, followed a minute later in the 67th by Lewis making it 7-1 with a left-footed shot.

Wells then completed the 8-1 scoreline for Bermuda in the 87th when he converted from the penalty spot to nail down his hat-trick.

 

 

 

Jamaica international and Bayer Leverkusen wide man Leon Bailey has recovered from a toe injury and is fit to take part in the upcoming CONCACAF Gold Cup, which gets underway next week.

The 22-year-old winger had a strong season for the German outfit, overall, providing 15 goals and 10 assists during the team’s campaign.  Overall Leverkusen finished 6th and in the European League places.

Bailey, however, suffered an injury, a broken toe, during the team’s penultimate game of the season against Werder Bremen a few weeks before the end of the season.  Initially, there was concern that the player could have missed the tournament, but he recently concerned that he was fully recovered and eager to get back on the field for the country.  He has since resumed training.

Bailey was named as part of a large preliminary squad, which has also included West Ham’s Michail Antonio and several other overseas-based players.  The winger, who has represented the country eight times is also expected to play a crucial role in the country’s attempts to qualify for the FIFA World Cup.  The CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers will resume in September.

Paul Hall has been appointed assistant coach to Reggae Boyz Head Coach Theodore Whitmore for the Gold Cup and the duration of the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers.

After being at loggerheads over wages for the past few weeks, the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) and the Reggae Boyz have reached a contractual agreement that now allows the focus to return to the coming CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers and the CONCACAF Gold Cup.

Haiti will take on St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Guatemala faces Guyana while Trinidad and Tobago will go up against Monserrat when Round One of the preliminaries of the 2021 CONCACAF Gold Cup kicks off on July 2 and 3 at Inter Miami CF Stadium in Florida.

Cuba will tackle French Guiana, Guadeloupe will battle The Bahamas and Bermuda go up against Barbados in what will be the first time ever that the competition will have preliminaries that will see three teams qualify for the 16-team Group Stage.

“We look forward with great anticipation to this summer’s Gold Cup, which will undoubtedly be enhanced by this new Preliminary Round,” said Concacaf President and FIFA Vice President Victor Montagliani.

“The past year has been very challenging in our region and our thoughts are with all the communities that have suffered. We hope the opportunity to watch the best men’s national teams in Concacaf compete in our flagship tournament can provide fans with some hope and enjoyment

All 12 of the competing nations in the Prelims will get a full Gold Cup experience at the excellent Inter Miami facilities and we look forward to a great set of games.”

“We look forward to hosting the Gold Cup Prelims tournament in our stadium,” said Inter Miami CF Managing Owner Jorge Mas. “Our facilities in Fort Lauderdale were built with the intent of giving our fans opportunities to enjoy the world’s game knowing that our vibrant culture and sports-centric region would be attractive for global teams and competitions. This is just the beginning of the great things that lie ahead.”

Round Two will begin on July 6 when the winner of the Haiti/St Vincent clash will take on the winner of the Bermuda/Barbados matchup. The winner of the Guatemala/Guyana encounter will play the winner of the Guadeloupe/Bahamas match. And finally, the winner of the Cuba/French Guiana match will tackle the winner of the Trinidad and Tobago/Montserrat clash.

The winning nation in each of the three Round Two matchups will advance to the Group Stage of the 2021 Concacaf Gold Cup, where they were drawn into Group A, B and C as follows:

Group A: Mexico, El Salvador, Curacao, and Winner Prelims 9

Group B: USA, Canada, Martinique, and Winner Prelims 7

Group C: Costa Rica, Jamaica, Suriname, and Winner Prelims 8

Group D: Honduras, Panama, Grenada, and Qatar.

The 2021 Concacaf Gold Cup group stage will kick off on July 10 and run through August 1, 2021, and will feature 16 national teams, of which Canada, Costa Rica, Curaçao, El Salvador, Grenada, Honduras, Jamaica, Martinique, eight-time and defending champion Mexico, Panama, Suriname, six-time champion the United States, are already qualified to the group stage of the tournament. Additionally, Qatar has been invited to the tournament as the current champion and representative of the Asian Football Confederation.

The remaining three countries will qualify through the Gold Cup Prelims, in which 12 Member Associations will compete for the final three spots, to be played July 2-6- at Inter Miami CF Stadium in South Florida.

 

 

Five Jamaican referees have been selected to officiate at the 2021 CONCACAF Gold Cup starting July 10 in the United States.

Reggae Boyz Captain Andre Blake has confirmed that the players have rejected the Jamaica Football Federation’s offer on terms and wages for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers and CONCACAF Gold Cup saying that they are willing to boycott all those competitions as they seek respect and fairness from their local football authorities.

“The players are prepared to go all the way,” Blake told Sportsmax.TV today. “They treat us like slaves and we are done being slaves!”

The players had made an initial request of US$7000 per player per match for the World Cup qualifiers set to begin in September. The JFF countered with an offer of US$2000 per match with bonuses of US$1000 for each win and US$500 for a draw. They claim they are unable to afford more.

The players had until last Friday to sign their contracts but sources indicate that the JFF had extended the deadline by a “few days” to give them more time to mull what has been described as a “take it or leave it” offer.

However, on the weekend, the players began to post ‘Take A Stand’ memes on their social media pages, a clear indication that they were not willing to accept the JFF’s offer.

Blake confirmed that to Sportsmax.TV this afternoon.

“The JFF submitted an offer, we countered that offer and they said they weren’t prepared to counter our offer,” Blake said. “We did have a new offer to put to the JFF and they made it clear, so after they did not counter-counter our offer, we reached out to let them know we were going to send in a new offer and they outright let us know that it was almost pointless to send the new offer because they will not entertain it.

“What they have on the table is what it is; you sign it you are eligible for selection, if you don’t then you’re not. So, at this point, yes, I and the players said ‘sorry but we cannot sign that contract, so that’s where we’re at right now.”

Blake said the players have now decided to take a stand because they believe the abuse at the hands of the JFF has been going on for too long. “It’s been generation on top of generation, anybody who has played for Jamaica can attest to this,” he said.

“If we don’t put a stop to this, 20 years later, my kids’ kids or other players’ kids or public members’ kids are going to be playing for the same money and under the same poor organization, structure and poor professionalism and poor communication and Jamaica football will never get better.”

He explained further that the current stance that the players are taking is not just about money.

“It’s more about respect and how the JFF approaches negotiations,” he said referring to the leaked voice note on recent negotiations where JFF officials were heard referring to the players in a disrespectful manner as they tried to negotiate terms for the two-match trip to Saudi Arabia in November 2020.

“The way the JFF goes about business is unacceptable and the players are just at a point where we think we have had enough,” Blake said. “Some things need to change. The JFF can definitely operate in a more professional manner.

“There is just so much more than they make it seem as if players are just in it for the money. They can go ahead and violate negotiations by leaking what they want and keep confidential what they want just to paint a bad picture of the players.”

Asked what he would like to see the JFF do to improve their relationship with the players, Blake said:

“They JFF need to start to put the players first. The JFF is not putting the players in the best possible position to be successful. And when we are not successful using baskets to carry water, everything falls back on the players.

“Travel arrangements are poor, hotel accommodations are poor, communication, poor, organization poor. It’s been going on for a while and we have just had enough. That’s the point where we are at right now and it’s nothing about whether you’re willing to play for free.

“The JFF, they do things backwards. The board should enjoy all the luxury treatment and reap all the benefits while the players go out there and do all the work. It’s slavery and we’re done being slaves for the JFF.”

 Calls to members of the JFF executive went unanswered.

 

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