Fri | Feb 3, 2023

Concacaf not far off the pace, say local coaches

Published:Wednesday | November 30, 2022 | 12:11 AMDaniel Wheeler/Staff Reporter
Jerome Waite
Jerome Waite
Alex Thomas
Alex Thomas
Calvert Fitzgerald
Calvert Fitzgerald
United States’ Weston McKennie celebrates after teammate Christian Pulisic scores a goal during the World Cup Group B football match against Iran at the Al Thumama Stadium in Doha, Qatar, yesterday.
United States’ Weston McKennie celebrates after teammate Christian Pulisic scores a goal during the World Cup Group B football match against Iran at the Al Thumama Stadium in Doha, Qatar, yesterday.
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IN ASSESSING the performances of Concacaf teams so far in the 2022 World Cup, the grading has been mixed although former national assistant coach Jerome Waite, former Molynes United coach Calvert Fitzgerald and current Molynes United’s Alex Thomas have seen enough to be proud of the region.

The United States are already through to the next round and while Canada have already been eliminated, their performance has made even powerhouses like Belgium speak with admiration for the quality coming out of the region.

Costa Rica and Mexico are still on the bubble with former recovering from a 7-0 shellacking to register a 1-0 victory over Japan in Group E.

According to Waite, the tournament, this time around, is more balanced than previous editions, making every game a tough one for Concacaf teams.

“The zones as a whole are tough. And the teams are playing good football. It is not an easy World Cup this time around. Hopefully, if we can have two advancing that would be great but we have to keep our fingers crossed,” Waite told The Gleaner.

Prior to the United States’ qualification, Waite had been worried about no Concacaf team making it to the round of 16, but today, he breathes a sigh of relief.

SETBACK

“It would [have been] a setback for the region and our football because we are looking forward to the Americans and the Mexicans, even two teams to advance to the next round.”

Despite Canada’s exit from the competition, their play has been praised in neutral circles with Mexican coach Gerardo Tata Martino saying that they had played the best football after the first round of games. Thomas is also optimistic about their future when Canada co-hosts the tournament four years from now.

“Canada have revamped their programme and you can see that the sky is the limit for them. It is a young team and with young Alphonso Davies carrying the mantle, there is light at the tunnel for them,” Thomas said.

At least one Concacaf team has made it to the round of 16 since 1994. Mexico have been to every knockout round since 1998, while the United States have made it to the last 16 four times since they hosted the tournament in 1994 (make that five). While he has not ruled any hope out for the teams to change their fortunes, Fitzgerald was cautious regarding their chances but with the tournament already providing shocks, did not rule them out.

“Normally Mexico would be the flag-bearer for the Concacaf region, nine times out of 10 they would be in the round of 16 but it doesn’t look like they will be. The closest team would be Costa Rica who have three points and if they win their game against Germany, they would go through,” Fitzgerald said.

“It goes to show that the ball is round and anything can happen. Statistically, they may not have a chance but anything can happen.”

Thomas also believes that the unexpected should be considered with teams drawing inspiration from Saudi Arabia’s shocking win over Argentina.

“Throughout this World Cup, you cannot take any team for granted. Every team is performing even the lower-ranked teams are performing. Look at what Saudi Arabia did to Argentina. The lower teams are doing well, they just have stick to the objectives of their coach and execute,” Thomas said.

daniel.wheeler@gleanerjm.com