Hallgrimsson cites Copa America qualification as key to improving Reggae Boyz playing style

By October 07, 2023
Heimir Hallgrimsson. Heimir Hallgrimsson. file

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

 

Sherdon Cowan

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

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