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Boyz should not fear Messi at Copa America

Published:Tuesday | June 9, 2015 | 12:00 AMOral Tracey, Contributor
Reggae Boyz Jermaine Taylor (left), Alvas Powell and Je-Vaughn Watson at training in March 2013. Taylor and Watson are members of the squad who will face Messi and his star-studded Argentina lineup at the Copa America.
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Despite the corruption tsunami currently rocking the administrative hierarchy of world football, the show must and will go on.

The first high-profile FIFA tournament since the spiralling turmoil began kicks off later this week in Chile.

Jamaica's senior Reggae Boyz will be guests at the Copa AmÈrica tournament and will have to cope with a first-round group comprising powerhouse teams Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay.

According to assistant coach Miguel Coley, Jamaica is not going to Chile to be embarrassed and are indeed looking seriously at getting out of this first-round group.

On the face of it, it sounds like typical 'coach talk' and the usual pre-tournament jargon, but with the format of the tournament affording the top two teams in each of the three preliminary groups guaranteed spots in the quarter-finals, with the best two third-place teams across all the groups also set to advance, Coley is being much more than platitudinous, he is being realistic.

 

strongest possible team

 

This is pretty much Jamaica's strongest possible team, with all but three players from the 23-man squad being local based - the Montego Bay United pair of Allan Ottey and Dino Williams, and Montego Bay United's Hughan Gray.

With the other 20 members of the squad being for the most part experienced and seasoned professionals, the atmosphere and the conditions in Chile should, therefore, be lesser factors for such an experienced team.

As for Jamaica's opponents in the first round, Uruguay, without the still-suspended Luiz Suarez, should not scare a Jamaican team looking to prove the point that they do belong on this elite stage.

There is absolutely no reason why the Jamaicans cannot beat the defending champions - or at least get a point.

The game they should definitely target for maximum points is against Paraguay. They should pose the least threat for the Boyz, provided coaches Sch‰fer and Coley set up the team with the requisite tactical astuteness from game to game.

As for the big game against Lionel Messi and Argentina, the assumption is, like most current players across the world, the Jamaicans will have a lot of respect for Messi. What they should not do is fear him.

They cannot approach the game as fans and admirers of Messi, but for those 90 minutes, the Jamaican players should see Messi as the enemy. They should respect him and his talent, but they should not fear him.

The fact of the matter is also, that Messi has never been spectacular at the full senior international level for Argentina. For one reason or another, the 'club bully' that Messi is for Barcelona morphs into a relatively 'spineless wimp' whenever he puts on an Argentina shirt. The Reggae Boyz can at least take heart in that fact.

This Argentina team, however, has other quality players, and stopping Messi might not be enough to get by the beaten World Cup finalists, who are one of the favourites to win this tournament.

That is why it is even more imperative that the boys maximise their take from the games against Uruguay and Paraguay.

The reason for my uncharacteristic optimism is purely anecdotal. I simply have a gut feeling that the Jamaicans will surprise us all and do well in this tournament. I hope at the end of their exploits in Chile, the Reggae Boyz will prove my gut feeling right and not leave me GUTTED.