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Berth to Copa America at stake as Canada takes on Jamaica in CONCACAF Nations League quarters

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Coping with chaos will be important when Canada faces Jamaica on the road Friday night in the CONCACAF Nations League quarterfinals, says interim coach Mauro Biello.

Biello knows history won’t be on the side of the Canadian men, who haven’t won a soccer match in Jamaica in 35 years. The second game in the two-match, aggregate series will be Tuesday at Toronto’s BMO Field.

“We’re expecting a difficult game there,” Biello told a conference call Thursday. “For us it’s about getting the result.

“It’s how we manage the chaos, and there’ll be a lot of chaos in these two games. In these two-game series it’s always important in the first one getting that result and giving us that opportunity to take care of business back home.”

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Canada has a 1-6-5 record playing in Jamaica with the only win a 4-0 decision on April 5, 1988.

Biello said the 45th-ranked Canadians need to be physically and mentally prepared for conditions at Independence Park when they face the No. 55 Reggae Boyz. Friday’s forecast for Kingston is 27 C, rain and 90 per cent humidity.

“It’s about fighting, it’s about battling,” he said. “We’re expecting a lot of rain. Who knows what the field is going to look like. I have to prepare the team not only tactically but I have to prepare their mindset.

“Players have to understand they may have to go out of their norm sometimes in these types of games. If we’re strong mentally, we’re able to react in different moments in different situations.”

Road to the 2024 Copa Americana

The winner of the series earns a berth in the 2024 Copa America.

Canada, Mexico, the U.S. and Costa Rica were given byes to the final eight of the competition, based on the March 2023 CONCACAF rankings.

Panama, Jamaica, Honduras and Trinidad and Tobago advanced via a qualifying round in the September and October international windows.

The 11-ranked U.S. will play No. 99 Trinidad and Tobago while No. 12 Mexico faces No. 78 Honduras and No. 44 Panama meets No. 46 Costa Rica.

The winners move on to the CONCACAF Nations League finals next March, as well as securing their ticket to Copa America as guest teams at the South American championship.

The quarterfinal losers have a chance to join them, via a single-match elimination play-in in March that will decide the two remaining slots for CONCACAF entries.

In their last meeting in March 2022, Canada defeated Jamaica 4-0 at BMO field, clinching qualification for last year’s World Cup.

Canada’s last game was a 4-1 loss to Japan in an Oct. 13 friendly. The match was Canada’s first under Biello, a former assistant coach who was put in charge after John Herdman left to take over Major League Soccer’s Toronto FC.

‘Players are starting to see how I work’

Biello believes there is now more clarity between him and the team.

“Players are starting to see how I work, what my message is, starting to understand what I want from them,” he said. “That clarity for me is important.”

The 23-man roster Biello announced last week has 19 players who were part of the World Cup team that performed in Qatar. They include left back Alphonso Davies, forwards Jonathan David and Cyle Larin, defenders Alistair Johnston and Kamal Miller and goalkeeper Milan Borjan.

Jamaica’s roster for the games includes five players who play in England’s Premier League.

“It’s a team that stacked with a lot of good players,” said Biello. “They have speed, power technical ability, qualities that we need to be aware of.

“Their front players … could case problems. We’ve got to make sure that we’re able to take care of that, then play our game and try to exploit them within our tactics and see how to best break them down.”

Biello said the experience the players gained during the gruelling World Cup qualifying matches has built confidence heading into Friday night’s game.

“We had to dig deep in those moments in qualifying when it was hard, whether it was the fans, the field or the weather,” he said. “They are an experienced group that has lived those moments to help us and glue everything together.

“You can’t go in there and be surprised and not know what to expect. The players know what to expect. They know it’s going to be difficult. They know they need to get the result there .”

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