Boyz settled and ready for Saudi clash
Jamaica's REGGAE Boyz meets hosts Saudi Arabia for the first time in 18 years. The game, which was originally to be played in the capital of Riyadh, will now kick off today at 12:15 p.m., Jamaica time, from the King Abdullah Sports City Stadium in Jeddah.
Before travelling to Saudi Arabia, Reggae Boyz assistant coach Jerome Waite had said that the team's coaching staff had been assessing their last result, which was a 2-0 loss to Canada in Toronto last month. He told The Gleaner that they will be looking to work on their defending and transitioning the play from defence to attack.
Jamaica Football Federation President Michael Ricketts has said that despite having to travel from Riyadh to Jeddah because of the change of match venue, the team has settled in well.
"All is well. We trained at the match venue [yesterday]," Ricketts told The Gleaner. "It's a new real state-of-the-art venue, very fit and ready for an 8:15 p.m. (Saudi time) game."
Head coach Theodore Whitmore, who played in the game the last time the two sides met, will be looking for a blend of local- and overseas-based players to achieve this target. However, there are a few players who will be looking to impress the coach and the public alike, after being away from national duty for a number of years.
One such player is Chevone 'Messi' Marsh. The 23-year-old was last selected in 2016 when the Reggae Boyz faced Costa Rica in their unsuccessful World Cup Qualifying. However, he did not play in that game.
Also returning is striker Michael Seaton, who now plays at Maccabi Ahi Nazareth in Israel's second division. Seaton last represented the team almost two years ago.
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Captain Andre Blake is not a part of the squad, meaning a possible selection for his usual understudy Dwayne Miller, who plays for Syrianska in Sweden. However, Arnett Gardens shot-stopper Damion Hyatt will also be hoping for a starting role.
Either Rosario Harriott or Ladale Ritchie is expected to start in defence with Damion Lowe, Jerome Taylor and Kemar Lawrence.
New England Revolution's Je-Vaughn Watson, who is expected to be the captain on the day, may be partnered with Shaun Francis of the Montreal Impact, or Portmore United's Ewan Grandison or Boys' Town's Jamiel Hardware.
Arnett Gardens midfielder Marvin Morgan is also looking to get a start in one of the three central roles in midfield, while Oneil Fisher and Romario Williams are expected to give the team some width, as Seaton or Morgan's clubmate Fabian Reid could start in attack.
The Saudi Arabians, who have already qualified for next year's FIFA World Cup in Russia, will look to talisman Mohammad Al-Sahlawi, who plays for Al-Nassr in the Saudi Professional League, to score their goals. Ahmed Al-Fraidi, Al Sahlawi's teammate for both club and country, is also expected to pose the Reggae Boyz some problems in midfield.
Should the Reggae Boyz get a victory, it will not affect their chances of moving from 61st in the FIFA Coca-Cola World Rankings, as the friendly is classified by the world-governing body as a "training game". This is because the Saudis had failed to request the match in the required time for it to be considered a FIFA International 'A' or Tier, One Game.