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Jamaica-Venezuela showdown tonight... both camps predict epic matchup

Published:Friday | March 25, 2011 | 12:00 AM
Venezuela's players getting ready for this evening's friendly in Montego Bay. photo by Adrian Frater
Dane Richards

 Adrian Frater, News Editor

Western Bureau:

Jamaica's Reggae Boyz will be seeking to advertise their state of readiness ahead of the upcoming CONCACAF Gold Cup Tournament this evening, when they square off with Central American outfit Venezuela in a friendly game at the Montego Bay Sports Complex in Catherine Hall, St James. Kick-off time is 8 o'clock.

"We are ready and raring to go ... Kavin Bryan and Damion Williams, the last of the two overseas-based players, are now here and they trained with us last night," said national coach Theodore 'Tappa' Whitmore. "This game is a crucial part of our Gold Cup preparation, so we are treating it very seriously."

However, while Jamaica will have home advantage and bragging rights based on the fact that they sit higher in the FIFA rankings than Venezuela, they, too, will be gunning to give a good performance as they are at a crucial stage in their preparation for the upcoming COPA Americas Tournament, in which they are grouped with Brazil, Ecuador and Paraguay.

"We are here with all our top-notch players, including our star players, who are based overseas," said Manuel Llorens, the psychologist for the Venezuelans. "We value our FIFA dates and try to get the most out of them because it is the only time that we have access to our overseas players."

While the Venezuelans are rated 63rd to Jamaica's 59th in the FIFA rankings, Llorens is not prepared to put too much weight on that, noting that getting ready for their COPA Americas assignment is the most important factor for the game against Jamaica and another friendly against Mexico on Tuesday.

All about preparation

For coach Whitmore, the rankings do not matter. He noted that the game is all about the Gold Cup preparations and getting the players to express their state of readiness for that tournament.

"This is an opportunity to look at all the players and for them to show whether or not they are ready for the Gold Cup," said Whitmore. "When the Gold Cup squad is selected, I don't want any player to say they were not given a fair chance to show their worth."

While he does not know a lot about the Venezuelans, Whitmore is expecting them to show the customary flair associated with South American football, and he is even more confident based on the history between the two teams.

In the most recent encounters between the two teams, Venezuela defeated the Reggae Boyz 2-0 at high altitude at their own El Estadio Olimpico Stadium in Caracas, while a year later, the Jamaicans returned the favour at the National Stadium in Kingston with a 2-1 win.

"We are well prepared ... the confidence level is high and we are expecting a positive result," stated Whitmore. "We have no injuries in the camp and that means we should get the best out of all the players."

In their build-up to this assignment against Jamaica, the Venezuelans played to a 2-2 draw against Costa Rica last month and lost 4-1 to Argentina last week. Llorens expects things to be different against Jamaica.

Europe-based players

For the visitors, quality play should come from the Europe-based trio of Nicolas Fedor, who plays for Getafe in Spain; Tomas Rincon, of Hamburg in Germany; and Robert Rosales, of Twente in Holland.

Based on recent performances by the Reggae Boyz, the players expected to stand out are the wily New York Red Bull star Dane Richards, skipper Shavar Thomas, Jermaine Taylor, Rodolph Austin, goalkeeper Dwayne Kerr, Kavin Bryan and midfielders Khari Stephenson and Damion Williams. "We are taking this game seriously and the players know this, as this game should go a long way in deciding which players will go to the Gold Cup," Whitmore said.