Seeking to seize top spot in their CONCACAF Nations League group with a win on Wednesday, Mexico visit Jamaica at Kingston’s Independence Park.
Separated by just a point at the top of League A Group A, the hosts hold the advantage after taking four points from their opening two games, while El Tri have won their only fixture so far.
Having started the CONCACAF Nations League amid a blaze of publicity, as the squad successfully ousted their federation’s general secretary following a first-day draw in Suriname, Jamaica now attempt to topple a regional giant when the Mexicans come to town.
After returning home to defeat Suriname in the return fixture last Wednesday – with Ravel Morrison opening the scoring in a 3-1 win – the Reggae Boyz sit top of Group A, having played a game more than Mexico.
As only the winners of the competition’s League A groups advance to the finals in June 2023, the upcoming clashes with El Tri are likely to be decisive, but the last time the two nations met back in January, Jamaica missed out on a potential 1-0 win by conceding a couple of late goals.
The top two finishers in each League A group also directly qualify for the Gold Cup, so keeping ahead of Suriname is the minimum requirement for Paul Hall’s squad, who came up well short in World Cup qualifying – winning just two of their 14 games on the road to Qatar.
The former Coventry City winger, who is also Under-23 head coach at Championship club Queens Park Rangers, took charge in late 2021, but Jamaica have won just two of seven matches since that home loss to Mexico at the start of the year.
Twelve months since their heartbreaking defeat at the hands of old foes the USA in the inaugural Nations League final – when they twice let a lead slip and ultimately lost out in extra time – Mexico have dusted themselves off and are in the process of trying to win the tournament at their second attempt.
During the intervening period, Tata Martino’s men again lost to the Americans in the Gold Cup final, but have since secured qualification for Qatar 2022 – finishing level on points with resurgent Canada at the top of the CONCACAF table.
El Tri will face Argentina, Poland and Saudi Arabia in this winter’s World Cup finals, but have first turned their attention to the quest for a first Nations League trophy.
In their first competitive fixture this month – following friendlies with Nigeria, Uruguay and Ecuador – Mexico defeated Group A outsiders Suriname 3-0 on Saturday night at Coahuila’s Estadio Nuevo Corona.
Goals from Israel Reyes, Henry Martin and Erick Sanchez secured victory for the hosts against the South American minnows, as Martino made several changes to his lineup after releasing 16 senior players from his squad.
That indicates, then, the former Barcelona coach’s priorities, as allowing players to have an extended summer holiday takes precedence in a World Cup year, but the remaining selection available is still laden with talent at this level.
Jamaica CONCACAF Nations League form:
Jamaica form (all competitions):
Mexico CONCACAF Nations League form:
Mexico form (all competitions):
We say: Jamaica 1-2 Mexico
Given the recent disarray in the Jamaica camp, the home side are not best placed to take advantage of their visitors’ relative inexperience, and they are still set to lose to a second-string Mexican side.
The Reggae Boyz last kept a clean sheet in October – some 11 games ago – so there is little chance of shutting out an attack motivated by the chance of a place on the plane to Qatar.