The Guyana men’s football team, also known as the Golden Jaguars, has yet to advance to the FIFA World Cup, the preeminent international football tournament. However, the team has played in two Caribbean Nations Cup tournaments as well as the 2019 Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) Gold Cup.
The Golden Jaguars finished 13th in the group stage of the tournament, but nonetheless took a step in the right direction as it was the first time it had qualified for the tournament. Following its performance at the 2019 CONCACAF Gold Cup, Guyana is hoping to further improve at the international level through its participation in the 2019-20 CONCACAF Nations League.
The 2019-20 CONCACAF Nations League is the inaugural season of the international football competition. The 41 member nations are split into three tiered leagues (League A, B, and C). The idea of establishing a league was first brought up in Oranjestad, Aruba in April 2017 at the XXXII CONCACAF Ordinary Congress. The tournament was confirmed seven months later and its schedule was announced in March 2018.
In order to determine seeding for the 2019-20 CONCACAF Nations League, a one-off qualifying phase was held between September 2019 and March 2019 with 34 teams playing four games to establish the tiered rankings. The six teams that played in the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying hexagonal did not need to play in CONCACAF qualifying, and Guatemala was absent due to FIFA suspension.
League A was comprised of the six FIFA World Cup qualifying hexagonal teams as well as the top six from CONCACAF qualifying. League B involved teams ranked 7th to 22nd in qualifying. Guyana won three of its four qualifying matches by a combined score of 14-3, which is how it earned entry to the 2019 CONCACAF Gold Cup. It finished seventh overall and just barely missed out on qualifying for League A. Sixth-place Cuba had a plus-13 goal differential compared to Guyana’s plus-11.
Qualifier for 2021 Gold Cup
Prior to the launch of the inaugural CONCACAF Nations League season, CONCACAF officials announced the league will act as a qualifier for the 2021 CONCACAF Gold Cup. The 16-team tournament will include the top two teams in each of the four League A groups, the four group winners in League B, and four other countries that advance through Gold Cup Qualifiers. These will occur over two rounds in March and June 2020.
In March, the winners of the four League C groups will compete against four runners-up in League B. The winners of those games will advance to the second qualification round in June to play the four League A third-place finishers. Guyana, then, will earn automatic entry into the 2021 CONCACAF Gold Cup if it wins its group. It can also advance via an additional qualifying tournament if it finishes second in its League B group.
In advance of the Golden Jaguars’ first two CONCACAF Nations League games against Aruba and Jamaica, respectively, the Guyana Football Federation shortlisted 20 players to compete in the games. In addition to a dozen players who are playing in other countries, eight who play locally were selected.
This was the most local players chosen in recent memory and was done with the purpose of promoting player development. Local players include Akel Clarke, Sherwin Skeete, Kevin Layne, and Ryan Hackett.
Marcio Maximo, the team’s head coach, expressed confidence in the team’s abilities prior to its first game against Aruba: “Preparations have been going very well, the guys are very motivated. The guys have shown great interest and, of course, they understand the tactical elements. While we will set out to win the upcoming matches, there’s no guarantee in football. We, however, will go to the game with optimism that we can have a good result against both Aruba and Jamaica.”
Win Against Aruba
Guyana eked past 22nd-ranked Aruba with a 1-0 victory in its first game of the 2019-20 CONCACAF Nations League. Sheldon Holder scored the Golden Jaguars’ lone goal in the 22nd minute of the game. He had three of Guyana’s 11 shots, while midfielder Neil Danns had a pair of shots directed towards the net. Six other players had one shot apiece. Aruba, meanwhile, had nine shots, but only two were on target. Clarke, the team’s goalkeeper, stopped both to earn a clean sheet.
Loss to Jamaica
Despite finishing just ahead of Jamaica in qualifying for the 2019-20 CONCACAF Nations League, Guyana struggled in the September 9 game between the two countries as it dropped a 4-0 decision. Alvas Powell and Dever Orgill each scored two goals for Jamaica, which moved into first place in Group C of League B with the victory.
Guyana, meanwhile, was in second place following the loss due to having a better goal differential than third-place Antigua and Barbuda. Guyana plays two games against Antigua and Barbuda in October and is scheduled to play one more game against both Jamaica and Aruba before the end of Group C competition on November 19.