Boyz get ready for do-or-die clash
VINA DEL MAR, Chile:
After a fair bit of travelling by air and bus, the Reggae Boyz are in Vina Del Mar for tomorrow's do-or-die Group B Copa encounter against world number three Argentina, in the Copa America football tournament.
The Jamaica senior men's football team was up and ready for an 8 a.m. breakfast before a near-hour drive to the airport in Antafogasta, the desert mining town in which they found much love for their charm and unexpected high-quality performance against cup holders Uruguay, and then against Paraguay, in their first two Group B matches.
Both ended in 1-0 defeats, which left the Jamaicans at the bottom of the Group of Death and needing to win to give themselves any hope of advancing to the quarter-finals.
Argentina and Paraguay, with a win and a draw, are tied atop the group with four points, while Uruguay have three. There are three first-round groupings of four teams and the top two, along with the two best third-placed teams, will advance.
From day one, head coach Winfried Schäfer had stated his intention of "making the quarter-finals".
The players and coaching staff have added to that call with similar expressions, noting that "we're not here to make up numbers" on the back of strong performances in both matches played.
a bizarre goal
They went shoulder to shoulder with Uruguay and created enough chances to win; and conceded a bizarre goal from a goalkeeping error against Paraguay, which thoroughly dominated their match-up in the first half before the Reggae Boyz transformed the game in the second half and pressured their opponents to the end, while going close to scoring on a couple of occasions.
It drew wide admiration and support from the people of Antafogasta, with cheers of "Jamaica, Jamaica, Jamaica", as they willed the team on in the two matches.
"You saw after the match all supporters of Chile were applauding," Schäfer observed. "They cheer for Jamaica because they saw a team that wanted to win, was fighting, was determined."
Now, the Reggae Boyz, who did some stretches two hours after arriving here, are looking forward to rising against the challenge of a star-studded Argentine team with the world's top player, Lionel Messi, along with Sergio Aguero, Angel di Maria, Carlos Tevez and Ezequiel Lavezzi, some of the game's biggest strikers.
"You never know with football; anything can happen on the day," central defender Michael Hector said, reflecting on their underdog status. "But we've got to cut out the silly mistakes that lead to the goals, and if we stay solid, then a set piece or a counterattack could do it."