Schäfer: Training camps vital for World Cup campaign
Audley Boyd, Assistant Editor - Sport
REGGAE BOYZ head coach Winfried Schäfer wants training camps and matches to form the core of the country's World Cup preparation.
The Jamaicans recently won the regional championship, the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) Men's Caribbean Cup, with a penalty shoot-out win against Trinidad and Tobago here in November.
That success transformed the senior men's national team's poor record, catapulting Jamaica 42 places up FIFA's World ranking from 113.
Schäfer, a German who has been the Boyz's head coach for just over a year, says the country should use the Caribbean Cup triumph as a launch pad for the 2018 World Cup Finals, which will be held in Russia.
"This is fundamental. We've to build our house from the Caribbean Cup," Schäfer said. "Our house is qualification for the World Cup."
He continued: "The JFF has to invest in training camps and matches. Without training, we cannot win."
Captain Horace Burrell, president of the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF), committed their backing.
going for qualification
"The JFF is prepared to support coach Schäfer and his training team to do whatever he wants to qualify his team," said Burrell.
"We (Jamaica) are involved in a number of internationals next year. We're the first Caribbean team that will be taking place in the Copa America.
"In addition to that, it is our intention to play on every FIFA friendly date. The next friendly date is in March next year," Burrell outlined. "Our agent is actively looking for opponents for that FIFA date."
He added: "Following that there's the Copa América in Chile in June, and in July, we'll be participating in the Gold Cup in the United States."1
Schäfer said camps, these tournaments, and friendlies would facilitate establishing a core of players, provide in-competition practice, and give him sufficient time to build his players for World Cup assignments.
Validating his point, Schafer pointed to matches and a training camp prior to the Caribbean Cup. The practice results were not great. They lost against Canada (1-3), Japan (0-1), (France (0-8), Serbia (1-2), Switzerland (0-1), and a draw with Egypt (2-2).
"We test a team and say we have to win. That is not possible," he reasoned.
"I saw in these matches what we had to do in the Caribbean Cup. The Caribbean Cup was a priority, not Japan, not France, not Serbia."
For those matches, the Reggae Boyz had to travel extensively and had little recovery time before kick-off. Schäfer deems this unsatisfactory.
"I do not accept that we go and play friendlies one or two days before like Japan," he said.
On the contrary, he found satisfaction from a 10-day camp in Montego Bay ahead of the Caribbean Cup.
"This time (10 days) was a very good training. Everybody go to the limit. We had time. We did 3-5-2, 4-3-3, 4-4-2," he noted of their practice to play different formations.
"Football is easy, but team building for a tournament is hard work, professional work," Schäfer continued.
"We make meetings, individual, with the group and then with everybody. Not only do I talk, I ask the players why and what they have to do. That is my strategy. It is important for the staff to give all information to the players, and to all players, all those who didn't start and to know what they are thinking, get them to think. What you give to the player, you get back," the coach said, explaining his strategy.
"I'm not a general. I like communication. I must tell him why. I must tell the player the better way to football, not what he has to do."
He hopes to reciprocate more at camps he plans to start next month.
"We're looking to start between January 13 and 15. I'm going to have a meeting with the clubs (local). I would love to have three days training with national players," he outlined, adding that he utilises video technology as well for understanding and reinforcement.
The preparation, Schäfer said, is key to Jamaica's build-up for 2015 and beyond. Caribbean Cup success has guaranteed top-quality competition, with the team advancing to the Gold Cup and the 2016 Copa Centennial, the South Americans' celebratory championship for 100 years of existence.
Additionally, Jamaica will participate in next year's Copa América, which includes the game's powerhouses Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay, which have won nine World Cup titles among them.
The Copa ends three days before the start of the Gold Cup. Schäfer says this means Jamaica needs virtually two teams for both tournaments, and he is placing more importance on the CONCACAF championship.
"For these two cups we have to make two strong teams. We have to see which one is more important. The Gold Cup, that we can win," he emphasised. "We'll need 30-40 players for these two tournaments.
"I'm happy about this," he continued. "These three cups are our preparation for the World Cup."