This year’s Copa América was a struggle at best for the Jamaican national team. The Reggae Boyz came into the tournament with some momentum after upsetting the United States in last years Gold Cup semifinals, but that momentum was quickly squashed, practically before the whistle blew to start off their campaign.
Jamaica found themselves in a challenging group with CONCACAF frequents Mexico, CONMEBOL powerhouse Uruguay, and a fairly average Venezuela side. The Reggae Boyz had a tough task ahead of them to advance from the Group Stage.
Still, many predicted them to be a dark horse with the ability to surprise teams like Mexico and Uruguay, who favor possession. Manager Winfried Schäfer favors tactics similar to Leicester City, using a direct, fast-pace counterattacking style, an excellent counterpunch to possession-based teams.
Jamaica’s tournament took a turn for the worst prior to their Group A opener against Venezuela. Captain Wes Morgan was left out of the Starting 11, and not expected to feature, being labeled "too tired" after Leicester’s title celebrations by Schäfer.
After Venezuela took an early lead and Rodolph Austin was sent off for the Jamaica, Morgan did end up playing after all. Morgan offered the team leadership at the back as well as a threat on set pieces, despite being a man down. But, to no avail, Jamaica fell to Venezuela 1-0 in what was thought to be the easiest of their three group games.
Going into a must-win game against Mexico, Jamaica cracked under pressure, with defensive mix-ups being a common occurrence. Even Morgan, who was expected to shine prior to all the talk of his partying antics, looked fairly shaky in the heart of the Jamaican defense.
The Leicester captain was at fault for the first of Mexico’s two goals, gambling to leave his man in order to head away a cross, which proved unsuccessful an resulted in free header for Mexico’s Javier Hernández.
Jamaica went into the final group game against Uruguay with nothing but pride to play for. Despite playing a decent match as whole, defensive lapses, once again, dug their grave.
It could have been far worse, but thankfully Uruguay’s Edinson Cavani continued to struggle in front of goal. Cavani finally did manage to hit the back of the net in a 3-0 victory for his side.
Overall the tournament was nothing short of disappointing for Jamaica. The Reggae Boyz exited with a grand total of 0 points without scoring a single goal to go along with it.
This disappointment can easily be blamed on a lack of firepower up front. However, looking at one of the most promising teams Jamaica has fielded for a tournament, no points and no goals is a hard pill to swallow.
Especially with an experienced team consisting of multiple players on the wrong side of 30, this tournament was looked at as the time for Jamaica to shine. Now, Jamaica's window for international success is growing smaller by the second.
Jamaica will look to build on their Copa América experience in hope of making an appearance at the 2018 World Cup in Russia. The Reggae Boyz are coming into two crucial qualifying matches against Haiti and Panama, most likely needing wins from both of those games to progress to the next round of qualification.
If they’re to stand any chance of reaching their first World Cup appearance since France 1998, they’ll need Morgan’s defensive prowess and leadership to guide them. But for now, it’s back to the drawing board for Jamaica, and back to focusing on club play for Morgan, who’s looking to get back into top form for Leicester’s title-defending season.
If his recent play’s been any indicator, there’s plenty of work to be done for the Leicester City captain, who needs to keep himself focused for the upcoming campaign.