Thu | Jul 2, 2020

Stick to the Hex - Local stakeholders dismiss proposed WCQ changes

Published:Tuesday | June 2, 2020 | 12:26 AMLivingston Scott/Gleaner Writer
Jamaica’s Shamar Nicholson (foreground) dribbles ahead of Honduran player Emilio Izaguirre in their Concacaf Gold Cup match held at the National Stadium recently.
Jamaica’s Shamar Nicholson (foreground) dribbles ahead of Honduran player Emilio Izaguirre in their Concacaf Gold Cup match held at the National Stadium recently.

LOCAL FOOTBALL experts, Clyde Jureidini and Rudolph Speid, are of the opinion that the changes being proposed by Concacaf for the 2022 World Cup qualifying format are unfair and will put Jamaica’s chances of advancing at a disadvantage.

Last July, the region’s governing body took the decision to forgo preliminary qualification rounds, using the teams’ FIFA rankings instead to decide the top six qualifiers for the final qualification (or hexagonal) round. However, due to the coronavirus pandemic, Concacaf says they are once again looking to make adjustments to the format.

The Victor Montagliani-led organisation insists that the changes are ‘inevitable’ due to the coronavirus pandemic, indicating that they want to increase the number of teams in the final round from six to 12 teams, playing in three groups of fours.

However, Jureidini believes the newly proposed format will make it more difficult for the Reggae Boyz to gain qualification to the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

“It is a divergence from where we were. We were in a prime position as the fourth-place ranked team in Concacaf to qualify for the hexagonal (round), which has been the fairest method over the years.

“It (format) really gives you a shot, even if you start badly, you have nine games to recover and get into the top three or fourth place. And as a last resort, you will still have an outside chance to pull off something and go through. But this (proposal) now is a little adverse,” said Jureidini.

He pointed out that United States, Costa Rica and Mexico, the top three seeded teams will get weaker teams to play and have a greater chance for automatic qualification as group winners.

AT A DISADVANTAGE

“As we have done in the Gold Cup the last couple years, we will have to knock off the US, Mexico or Costa Rica to get there and that will be difficult. So we are going to be at a disadvantage again, as everybody will be hustling for the one spot, so the advantage that we had before is not as obvious or fair. It’s like it has been cut in half,” he reasoned.

Cavalier’s technical director, Speid, would prefer the hexagonal format remains, as it is ‘tried and proven’.

“I think the initial format, the hexagonal round, that we voted for is the best and I would prefer it remains. What will happen now is you will have three groups, so two top teams will be in one group, and if the winner goes straight to the World Cup, then you would have to finish a good second to have a chance. So I think it is a disadvantage for us. I prefer the hexagonal because we are used to it and you can better structure yourself,” Speid said.

Jamaica Football Federation general secretary, Dalton Wint, said the proposed changes are just speculations and that the federation will not comment on the possibilities until they have met with Concacaf and a decision is finalised.

“I cannot comment on something that is not factual. I know that we will be meeting very soon, so until that meeting is held, I cannot comment on something that is speculation. We can’t say that they are seriously considering it and there has been no discussions so far. But I know they are planning to have a discussion, the (JFF) president (Michael Ricketts) met with the Concacaf people but it is not something we can comment on at this time,” stated Wint.

livingston.scott@gleanerjm.com