Boyz must improve to get past Antigua & Barbuda
Audley Boyd, Assistant Editor - Sport
FROM defence to offence, the Reggae Boyz will be shooting for all-round improvements to beat Antigua & Barbuda in the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) Men's Caribbean Cup Finals clash at Montego Bay Stadium today at 8 p.m.
"Why we make only one goal? Why we make this stupid goal against us? Why we didn't press this player in midfield that makes the pass for goal?"
Winfried Schäefer let the questions fly one after the other, as he pointed to reasons for Jamaica's 1-1 draw against Martinique in their opening fixture of the four-nation Group B matchups on Wednesday night at the same venue.
The result gave the teams one point each, the same as the other teams in the group, Haiti and Antigua and Barbuda, who also drew, 2-2.
Haiti and Martinique will open this evening's double-header at 5:30.
The fact that two countries scored more goals put them in a better position than Jamaica and Martinique, as far as a tie-breaker for the group leadership is concerned.
They will all play three matches in the group phase and what makes that tie-breaker crucial is that the team with the most points will advance straight to the final against the Group A winners. Trinidad and Tobago, defending champions Cuba, French Guiana and Curaçao are in Group A.
"We have to win the next match," said Schäefer, the Jamaica head coach, after making reference to the 1-1 result.
Besides giving up the "stupid goal" - conceded from a long pass that sailed over a flat defence for Yoann Arquinn to control and score past Andre Blake for a 29th minute equaliser - Jamaica were inconsistent in all facets of their game.
Too many mistakes
They marked and tracked poorly, passed the ball badly, and turned over possession too often. And apart from poor decision-making, their shooting was off.
"We have to play better and (have) more accuracy for goal," he stated.
"Our strikers have to move a bit more for options from the midfield. We've to play like a team."
This was particularly true about the starting forwards, especially Dane Richards and Deshorn Brown, who tried to go it alone in the first half when passes to either or Darren Mattocks may have resulted in clear scoring chances.
To beat the faster-moving Antiguans, the Boyz must play as well or better than they did in Wednesday's second half.
Then the team exercised more patience, dribbled less and passed the ball quicker, with half-time substitute Jamar Loza and fiery Darren Mattocks presenting more movement and danger than the three-man front-line had offered.
Joel (Jobi) McAnuff, whenever he wasn't in 50-50 tackling situations, was excellent all-round in offence and played a large part creating the type of pressure the Jamaicans need to break down a determined Antigua & Barbuda bunch, that will provide less of a physical challenge.
Injuries and fitness are additional factors Jamaica must contend with. Full back Alvas Powell was forced out of the Martinique match. Hughan Gray never proved to be sure-footed in limited time. Starting central defender Nyron Nosworthy lacked match fitness and waned towards the end.
Another of the few options, Kemar Lawrence, was put at left back to allow Demar Phillips opportunity to increase Jamaica's offence.
Hungry for wins
Schäefer, hungry for wins as well to prove himself, says the players on hand must deliver. His squad is already without key defenders, English-based Wes Morgan and Adrian Mariappa.
"These 23 players are our team," he said. "I cannot say we miss Wes Morgan, we miss Mariappa, this is our team."
Key members must provide key moments. Austin will have to be more measured with his passing. His shooting was fantastic, only too straight as he hammered two shots that might have scored had they not gone straight at the Martinique keeper.
Mattocks was busy and sharp, as he scored a goal at minute 13 and had one of two other Jamaican finishes waved off for offside. Loza accounted for the other.
"That is football, we've to learn," said Schäefer.
His team needs to show the benefits of their failures against Martinique. Brown and Richards fit that category. In the meantime, Simon Dawkins and Michael Seaton await their chance to contribute to improvements Jamaica desire to enhance their title quest.
"The next game is going to be the toughest for all the teams," Martinique midfielder Julien Faubert summed up. "Everything is open."