May 18, 2024

HEADING into tonight’s crucial first leg of the 2023 Concacaf Nation’s League League A quarterfinal against Canada at the National Stadium, Heimir Hallgrimsson, head coach of Jamaica’s Reggae Boyz, revealed yesterday that there is some doubt around the fitness of defender Amari’i Bell and forward Demarai Gray.

The weather could also be a factor. A tropical storm watch was issued for Jamaica yesterday as the weather started to deteriorate island-wide due to an area of low pressure in the southwestern Caribbean.

This area of low pressure is expected to bring more bad weather today. Up to press time last night, there was, however, no indication from the Jamaica Football Federation that the match is likely to be postponed.

Everton's Demarai Gray reportedly close to joining Reggae Boyz

Both Bell and Gray are nursing injuries and were absent from yesterday’s training session. Coach Hallgrimsson said that while he is hopeful for their inclusion in the match squad, it will come down to them passing fitness tests.

“There are some injury doubts around Bell and Gray, but I’m hoping that they will be involved as I’m not writing anyone off. If they become available, we will play them, but they will be subjected to late fitness tests,” Hallgrimsson stated.

The Reggae Boyz versus Canada clash is one of four quarterfinal matches being played ahead of the weekend in League A with eight teams seeking four of the six spots from Concacaf in Copa America 2024.

The winners of each series will advance to the 2023-24 Concacaf Nations League Finals and will qualify for Copa America 2024 while the four defeated teams will progress to the Concacaf Nations League Play-In. The winners of each play-in will also qualify for Copa America 2024.

In-form Jamaican international Bell happy to show his versatility for the  Hatters

Looking ahead to today’s match, Hallgrimsson said that outscoring his opponents is of paramount interest although they could be missing a key defender in Bell.

“I don’t think keeping a clean sheet matters if we’re scoring more goals than our opponents. However, we would like to keep a clean sheet, especially in a double header like this, but we’re scoring a lot of goals,” he added.

Hallgrimsson was also pleased to have the nucleus of the squad returning for this important two-leg tie as he believes this crop of players can pull off something magical.

“I think the players in their various clubs are doing very well. If you look at our selections, all the players are playing 90 minutes almost every game, and they’re doing well, and that’s important for the national team.

As a team, we’ve been playing better, and I feel like we’re playing longer spells of good football,” said Hallgrimsson.

Defender Damion Lowe shared that from his standpoint and what he saw in the various training sessions, the team is looking sharp ahead of tonight’s encounter.

“The guys are really firing, and the vibes within the camp are really good as we haven’t seen each other in a couple of weeks. Training went really well, and the guys are very focused and really want to get the best result,” Lowe stated.

Mauro Biello, head coach of Canada, says his team has spent a lot of time working on their defensive unit in a bid to handle a “really good” Reggae Boyz offence.

“We’ve done a lot of work this week focusing on box defending, running back to goal, defending, and the various situations we might encounter against Jamaica. The work has been done, and now is the time to execute against a really good forward line,” Biello said.

Canada have won two of the last three games against Jamaica. In their last head-to-head clash last year, Canada won 4-0. The match is scheduled to kick off at 7 p.m.

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