Golden Jags can fill history books with win against Belize

The Golden Jaguars have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reach the CONCACAF Gold Cup this year, says Guyana Football Federation (GFF) President Wayne Forde, as he urged fans to come out to support the team in “the biggest match in Guyana’s footballing history” – a final qualification clash with Belize on March 23.

Part of the squad during a fitness session

A preliminary squad of 35 Guyana-based Golden Jaguars commenced preparations for the Belize game with fitness tests on Saturday at the GFF National Training Centre in Providence.
The home-based squad, selected by an in-depth GFF selection process involving top local coaches and Federation technical experts, will train three times a week in the run-up to March 23.
“This is a huge moment for our football. March 23 is the biggest match in Guyana’s footballing history,” Forde said in an interview. “We are on the cusp of making history by qualifying for the CONCACAF Gold Cup for the first time – it’s an incredible opportunity for our players, our football destiny, and our nation.”
“The match against Belize is a moment of national importance. I want to urge all of Guyana to come together as a nation to celebrate football and to support the team.”
After Barbados were docked six points by CONCACAF for fielding ineligible players in earlier qualification rounds, a win over Belize should guarantee the Golden Jaguars make history as the first Guyana senior men’s national team to reach the highest level of regional football competition.
The CONCACAF Gold Cup brings together the top national teams from North America, Central America and the Caribbean, and is broadcast live across the Region. As such, the tournament would provide a significant platform for Guyanese football talent to showcase their skills on the international stage.
“This is no time for complacency – we really need the fans to be there as that 12th man for the team. Belize has everything to play for, and we have seen a lot of surprise results in these qualification rounds. We won’t be taking anything for granted,” Forde said.
“But we know we have the talent, and I have every confidence in our players and the backroom staff. Coach Michael Johnson is working hard with his team – here and overseas – to get the preparations right. We will be ready to deliver a night to remember in March and give the nation something to really cheer about.”
Guyana’s route to the Gold Cup has been far from straight forward and, like all the best journeys in football, not without its fair share of drama. Their first match – at Leonora against Barbados in round one – ended in a 2-2 draw after two late goals from talented United Kingdom-based Bajan striker Hallam Hope.
The Golden Jaguars then thrashed Turks and Caicos 8-0 away from home in round two, before a disappointing 2-1 loss to French Guiana in Cayenne apparently all but wiped out Guyana’s chances of reaching the Gold Cup.
Disappointment turned to national relief on December 6 when CONCACAF ruled that Barbados had fielded two ineligible players against Guyana – including two-goal hero Hope – and awarded the Golden Jaguars a 3-0 win.
That ruling put Guyana on six points, in eighth place in the qualification league table – which also doubles as the qualification competition for the CONCACAF Nations League.
The top 10 teams qualify for the CONCACAF Gold Cup, which features 16 teams and takes place in the United States, Costa Rica and a Caribbean host nation between June 15 and July 7. The top six teams also qualify for CONCACAF Nations League A, with the teams ranked 7-22 on the table qualifying for League B.
The United States, Mexico, Costa Rica, Trinidad and Tobago, Panama, and Honduras have already qualified as the teams that participated in the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying hexagonal league.