JamaicaIllustrated By Alison Cowles
FIVE-TIME WINNER of the Caribbean Cup, Jamaica is the most unpredictable country in the final round. They boast a long history of playing in CONCACAF, albeit one without much success. Aside from the Caribbean Cup victories, the country's best results are a third-place finish at the 1993 Gold Cup and a Group Stage exit in its only World Cup appearance, in France in 1998.
But former national team star Theodore Whitmore is bringing a level of discipline to the always-athletic side and producing strong results. Jamaica shocked the United States in Kingston during the third round of qualification, earning a richly deserved 2-1 victory. Independence Park, nicknamed The Office, is one of the most fun venues in CONCACAF, a menagerie of reggae beats, colorful fans, and diehard supporters. It offers its own unique take on home-field advantage. Despite the win over the Americans, Jamaica needed a 4-1 win over Antigua & Barbuda on the final matchday, combined with the U.S.'s 3-1 defeat of Guatemala, to reach the Hexagonal. A betting man would predict a fifth or sixth place finish for the Reggae Boyz, but watch out if they get rolling.
The CoachTHEODORE "TAPPA" WHITMORE made his international debut as a player against the United States in November 1993. He took over the Jamaican midfield, leading the team to its only World Cup appearance and dictating play for more than a decade. When he hung up his cleats in 2005, Whitmore had 105 caps, 24 goals, and stints with Hull City and Livingston. He also played for Montego Bay United Football Club ("Seba United") during four separate occasions, and signed on to coach the club between 2006 and 2008. Interim and assistant coaching gigs with the Jamaican national side led to Whitmore eventually assuming the head coaching duties in 2009. He followed a disappointing first round exit from the 2009 Gold Cup with a quarterfinal appearance in 2011–losing 2-0 to the U.S.–and a so-far successful 2014 qualification effort.
The TacticsA COMBINATION OF SPEED, power, and raw determination, Jamaica will try whatever it needs to get a result. Under Theodore Whitmore, what consistent strategy can be identified has worked pretty well, with the Reggae Boys back in the Hexagonal after a 12-year absence. An increased number of Europe- and U.S.-based players have upgraded the Jamaicans to a team that’s more than just a physical threat. The coach, known as a midfield general during his playing days, is attempting to get his entire team to play as he did: calmly, smartly, effectively, and with a little flair. But the same group that has played well enough in qualifying to date–knocking off the U.S. for the first time ever in Kingston last year–floundered without its European stars at the recent Caribbean Cup, finishing last in a group including Martinique, Cuba, and French Guyana. Those ups and downs suggest that the Reggae Boys are probably the weakest team in this year’s Hexagonal. When things are going well, Whitmore's squad looks organized and confident. But too often they panic, especially in the back, and resort to athleticism. That was enough in the early rounds but it won't be going forward. The Americans had never lost to Jamaica until that September night; don’t look for it to happen again in 2013.
The HistoryJAMAICA REACHED THE World Cup once in its history, going 1-2-0 with a minus-6 goal differential during the 1998 tournament. The team failed to reach the Hexagonal in 2006 and 2010 after finishing fifth in 2002.
World Cup Results1990: DNQ (Eliminated in the second round of 1989 CONCACAF Championship qualifying)
1994: DNQ (Eliminated in second round)
1998: Group Stage
2002: DNQ (Eliminated in final round)
2006: DNQ (Eliminated in semifinal round)
2010: DNQ (Eliminated in semifinal round)