Schäfer banking on Copa America
THE Reggae Boyz will play their first match of the Copa America next Saturday against Uruguay in Chile.
The competition is the lead-off for back-to-back tournaments that Jamaica head coach, Winfried Schäfer, hopes will assist in choosing a solid squad and providing it with match practice for the FIFA 2018 World Cup qualifiers.
"Both tournaments are very important," Schäfer told The Sunday Gleaner ahead of their departure.
"After this we have two matches in the qualification (World Cup). I hope we can build from both tournaments a very strong team for the World Cup qualification in August, September.
"We've to work. I don't want stagnation, I want every time more, more, more," he stressed.
The advancement he seeks is an extension to their 2014 Caribbean Cup success. Key to that, he says, was their preparation.
A number of the squad members have either just completed their season in Europe and Jamaica, or are in-season in the United States' Major League Soccer, which means their fitness level is good.
This is a higher level tournament for Jamaica, who will be participating in the South American championship for the first time, owing to a special invitation.
Schäfer likes the fact that he has a bit of time to prepare the team for competition, with the team also slated to face Paraguay and beaten World Cup finalists, Argentina - with the likes of Lionel Messi and Sergio Aguero - in their first-round group.
With the top two certain to qualify for the knockout phase, along with the two best-placed third teams, Schäfer is looking to get out of the group.
"I hope we can go to the quarter-finals," he said. "Football is open, you cannot tell; Brazil were beaten 7-0 in the semi-final of the World Cup," the German coach reflected on his country's stunning victory at the last championship, in Brazil.
"I'm aggressive, I want to see everybody fight for our team, everybody eat from the success of our team. I'm a positive man, not a negative man," Schäfer reinforced.
He says the country's historic participation is good and wants to make Jamaicans proud of their performance.
"This is good for Jamaica, it is good for the players, good for me, good for everybody," he said of the first-time Copa challenge.
"I want to win matches and I hope at the end when we come back from Chile our whole island Jamaica is happy about the Reggae Boyz."