'We showed what we can do against good players'
VINA DEL MAR, Chile:
When it comes to playing against Lionel Messi, nothing tops Rodolph Austin's chart in football.
"To be honest, so far in my career I think it's the most wonderful moment - to be on the pitch with him," the Jamaica captain said of his Argentina counterpart, the world's best player.
"The respect of him and to see the type of individual he is. He's very humble, a superb player, a superb individual."
Both met centre pitch for the coin spin at kick-off and even came face-to-face throughout the Copa AmÈrica match at the Sausalito Stadium on Saturday night, which Argentina won 1-0 on a Gonzalo Higuain goal.
"I asked him for his shirt in the tunnel at half-time. He gave me and took mine. It's a wonderful moment for me. We just have to be grateful to be in this situation and give our all for our country," Austin continued of his and Jamaica's big moment against the little magician, who led Argentina to the World Cup final last year, and Spanish giants Barcelona to the European Champions League, La Liga, and Copa del Rey titles this season.
"I think we played well," Austin said, summing up Jamaica's play in the Group of Death against world number three, Argentina; world number eight, Uruguay,
the defending Copa America champion; and Paraguay, tournament runners-up in 2011.
"Our football is growing and the team did well, and we showed what we can do against some good players and good teams. It's just for us to continue on that path and keep the same team, with some additions. Who comes in the team knows what the team is about."
Such was the play of Jamaica, ranked 65th by FIFA, that they drew applause from the crowds during the matches.
"The negative is no one likes to lose games," Austin said of the low point. "Unfortunately, the three goals that were scored against us could have been prevented. But that's football sometimes and we just have to grow from it."
The 30-year-old also captained Jamaica when they won the Caribbean Cup last year. Like then, his style throughout Copa was just as hard-nosed as he laid it all out on the pitch.
"That's just me. That's just how I am in life also," he said of his uncompromising style. "I never get anything easy. I have to work hard for everything."
He has battled injuries lately and has been released from Leeds United, which he joined from SK Brann in 2012 and for which he made 100 appearances.
"With my injuries and stuff, everything, I feel like everything had been taken away from me, and then you get back that opportunity to show the world what you can do. That's always me as a player. I like to do the dirty work - to do that for the team. I'm driven for that and I love my country. I like to represent it, that's just me. I like to give my all," Austin professed.
"I know that I was free and talking to Jobi (Joel McAnuff). He told me it (Copa AmÈrica) was a good opportunity for me. He has been wonderful to me, encouraging me.
"Sometimes we go away in these tournaments and we get five, six-nil, it's not nice. We showed that we could've drawn the three games, at least."
The team now rests for a week before packing again for the CONCACAF Gold Cup in the United States and Canada, with Jamaica playing their first game against Costa Rica on July 8 at Home Depot Center in Carson, Los Angeles. Austin said it's important that given their performance at Copa AmÈrica that the team keeps focused for the upcoming assignment.
"We can't get complacent and we can't get carried away," he said. "If you watched the games, we did the dirty stuff well. We just have to continue and make sure that we do the dirty stuff and the nice things will come because we're solid in defence, and once we start scoring goals, we'll be difficult to beat."