Expanded 2026 World Cup “realistic goal” for Golden Jaguars– Coach Shabazz
By Akeem Greene
Re-appointed Golden Jaguars Head Coach, Jamaal Shabazz, strongly believes that once there is a nationwide collective approach, Guyana can dream and envision to qualify for the expanded 2026 FIFA World Cup, which will be hosted by The United States of America, Canada, and Mexico.
The 2014 World Cup qualifiers, where Guyana exited in the third round- before the hexagonal round where the three automatic qualifiers are decided, is the furthest the Golden Jaguars have gone in World Cup qualifiers to date.
Usually, Confederation of North, Central America, and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) would have three and a half qualifying spots – the half being for a continental play-off – but now the World Cup in 2026 will be an expanded version – 48 teams – and CONCACAF has six spots, three of which go automatically to the hosts. Those teams will be playing 80 matches over 34 days.
It slightly leaves the door ajar for other nations to enter, but certainly no easy task. However, Shabazz, who is back with the Jaguars for a record fourth tenure, has indicated it is a realistic proposition.
“I think we have got to dream and envision…and I think we got to go for it,” the coach expressed. “We qualified for the Gold Cup under Mr. [Michael] Johnson and I think it showed that we can qualify for the big competition.”
He further stated, “There are a lot of things…when a team comes to play in Guyana, they must feel, hey, we are coming to play a nation.”
The Trinidadian native contended that in order to achieve such a historic endeavour, it would take an immense collective effort.
“I think it is realistic, it is visionary and we can dream for it, but I don’t see that we have a choice. I think that we owe it to our nation, we owe it to our people to realistically attempt to get there and what we have to do in that period, is a very collective one.”
In May 2018, the Guyana Football Federation President, Wayne Forde, said they are laying the foundation to achieve potential World Cup qualification in 2026.
Forde elaborated that for Guyana to qualify for the 2026 World Cup, it would need a national alliance of all stakeholders to invest the time and resources necessary to prepare the nation’s team.
“Each citizen, every business, every member of our fraternity, the Government of Guyana, the international community, all coming together to be a part of this exciting journey,” the GFF Head envisioned.
At this year’s World Cup qualifiers, Guyana failed to make it out of the first round in a group with St. Kitts and Nevis – who progressed, Trinidad and Tobago, Puerto Rico, and The Bahamas – the only side they defeated.