Kingston, Jamaica - Sidelined Jamaica international Joel Grant has urged the three nations that will represent Concacaf at the Russia 2018 Fifa World Cup to be fearless in their quest to bring glory for themselves and the confederation.
The England-born professional, who struts his stuff for League One Plymouth Argyle, notes that even with confederation giant the USA’s absent from football’s greatest showpiece, those who have qualified are capable within their own rights to fly the region’s flag very high.
“I really hope the teams that qualified go into the tournament with no fear, and while USA is a big name, I truly believe the teams that made it deserve to be there and will make all of Concacaf real proud,” said the 30-year-old winger, who is sometimes deployed as a midfielder or striker.
At Russia 2018, which runs from June 14 to July 15, Concacaf’s Costa Rica will contest Group E with favorites Brazil, Switzerland and Serbia.
In Group F, perennial campaigners Mexico has ruthless company in champions Germany, Sweden and Korea Republic, Panama will contest a tough Group G with Belgium, Tunisia and England.
With Trinidad and Tobago (Germany 2006) and Jamaica (France 1998) being the last qualifiers to the quadrennial tournament, Grant argues that enormous benefits await the next Caribbean nation to reach the elusive lofty heights.
“Again this can help hugely with the development of Caribbean football. The financial gains for qualifying for a World Cup are huge, and if used correctly, can improve the standard of football, which will make better competition and better players,” noted Grant.
The former Watford footballer paused to salute the new Concacaf Nations League, which will be contested by all 41 members of the sub-continental grouping.
“This is a huge boost, especially for the smaller nations. Again it's an opportunity to develop and will be a shop window for players to get noticed,” Grant stated.
Born in Acton, England, to a Jamaican mother, the former Exeter City man, who was a member of Jamaica’s successful run in the 2015 Concacaf Gold Cup, expressed disappointment that the team was not able to go one better at the 2017 edition.
On both occasions, the Reggae Boyz defied expectations and reached the final of Concacaf’s marquee tournament, beaten 3-1 by Mexico in 2015 and 2-1 by the USA two years later.
“I was devastated for the boys that played in the tournament. I had to stay up late at nights to watch the games and when ‘Taxi’ (Kemar Lawrence) scored that free-kick to beat Mexico in the semi-final of the last tournament, I was convinced Jamaica would be crowned winners
“But making it to back-to-back finals is a massive achievement, but also one of huge disappointment as we struggle at times with consistency,” Grant said.