Whitmore wants to take Gold Cup form into World Cup Qualifiers

By concacaf.com July 24, 2020

The 2015 Gold Cup was the start of a remarkable run of success for Jamaica in the Gold Cup. Two years later in 2017 under the guidance of Head Coach Theodore Whitmore, Jamaica returned to the Final. Then in last summer’s Gold Cup, Whitmore’s side was once again in the title mix in reaching the semifinals, marking three straight Gold Cup semifinal appearances, becoming the only Caribbean nation to accomplish that feat.

With all those Gold Cup achievements under their belts, Whitmore’s objective is now to translate those Gold Cup results into success during Concacaf World Cup Qualifying for Qatar 2022.

“It says a lot about this group of players. This is a special group of players and it is nice to have so much Gold Cup success, but now our goal is to take that into World Cup Qualifying. Our ultimate objective is to reach the World Cup, so the way we have performed in the Gold Cup and Nations League, we have to bring that same mentality to World Cup Qualifying,” said Whitmore in an exclusive interview with Concacaf.com.

Although Jamaica’s 2017 Gold Cup ended with a narrow 2-1 defeat to the United States in the Final, Whitmore feels like there were many positives to be taken.

“It was a great experience. Our first goal was to get out of the group and we knew that once we got out of the group that we could do well. It was a great effort from the team to reach the Final. Unfortunately, we lost the Final, but overall, I am very happy with how the players played,” said Whitmore.

That run to the 2017 Final included a first ever Gold Cup win over Mexico when Kemar Lawrence’s late free kick made the difference in a 1-0 win.

“We knew with Mexico that the longer you keep them contained, your chances will come. We did a good job of limiting their attack. I think they only had a couple chances early. Defensively we were very good and stayed compact and organized. We were then able to take advantage of our scoring opportunities. On free kicks, we have two players who usually take them and Kemar had no doubts that he would take that. After the game we felt so much elation for the victory because the players worked so hard,” said Whitmore.

Jamaica followed up their 2019 Gold Cup semifinal finish with a strong display in the 2019-20 Concacaf Nations League in which the Reggae Boyz topped their group in League B with a 5W-1D-0L record. As a former Caribbean footballer and current coach, Whitmore is pleased to see so many different island nations reaping the rewards of Concacaf’s Nations League initiative.

“I think it is good for the whole Caribbean because the most important thing for players to raise their level is to have more games. Now, all of the Caribbean teams can make plans because they know they have games to play. It is very important for a player to have regular competition in order to improve and the Nations League has helped with that,” said Whitmore.

New initiatives from Concacaf are also being felt at the club level with the recent introduction of the Scotiabank Concacaf League in 2017, which has included the likes of Jamaicans clubs Portmore United, Waterhouse and Arnett Gardens. Since its inception, young Jamaican players have starred in the tournament and used its platform to earn moves to bigger clubs in the area and call-ups to Whitmore’s side.

“Before teams like Waterhouse, Portmore United, Harbor View, they would only play in the Red Stripe Premier League here in Jamaica. Now they can play in a Concacaf tournament, and that is important because you see their players get tested. That helps with the development of players. Players like Maalique Foster, Javon East, you see them perform in Concacaf League and they can move to bigger clubs,” said Whitmore.

It has been 14 years since Whitmore, an attacking midfielder, hung up his boots as a player following a sparkling 22-year career in which he excelled for both club and country. It also coincided with a time when some of the best midfielders in Concacaf history were in their prime.

“I played against some very tough midfielders. Rafa Marquez of Mexico is one who was very tough, Amado Guevara from Honduras. There were so many good players in midfield in Concacaf during that time, so I knew I always had a battle on my hands,” said Whitmore.

When he reflects on his career in a Jamaica shirt, there are a couple victories that stand out, but mostly his two-goal performance in Jamaica’s only FIFA World Cup victory, a 2-1 final over Japan at France 1998.

“In 1997 when we defeated Mexico to qualify for the World Cup, that was such a special moment because it was the first time that Jamaica qualified for the World Cup. I would also say when we beat Japan 2-1 in the World Cup and I scored the two goals.

“Of the two goals I scored, I like the first one the best. I remember the night before I was talking with Ricardo Gardner and Ian Goodison and we told each other that we had to win our last game, that we couldn’t leave the World Cup without a win. They told me that I needed to be the one to score, since I had scored the first goal in qualifying against Suriname, so they said I should be the one to begin and close our journey. You can see on the video that I score the first goal and Ricardo and Ian come celebrate with me. The second goal was also a feeling of great joy,” concluded Whitmore.

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