Audley Boyd, Assistant Editor - Sport
JAMAICA'S football boss, Captain Horace Burrell, is hoping the heavy influx of overseas-based players will prove the fly in the ointment, as they seek to transform negative results against Panama and win the CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying football match at the National Stadium tomorrow evening.
"The difference between the Jamaican team that will face Panama on Friday and the previous teams is that the players who are likely to face Panama are players who have been doing well in Europe and the United States, and they are almost at the middle of their season and are match ready and can be expected to put up a tremendous performance against the Panamanians, who we have a lot of respect for," a confident-sounding Burrell told The Gleaner in an interview yesterday evening.
"Today (yesterday) the team visited Jamaica House and was given an inspiring address by Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, and at the conclusion of the address you could see a burning desire in their eyes to give their all in this game against Panama for their country."
In 11 previous tries, Jamaica have won twice while losing four times and tying the other five.
It is a record that is flattering, if anything, with Jamaica even totally dominant against the Panamanians in several recent clashes, where they made numerous scoring opportunities, but failed to hit the target.
"The players are fully aware of the 'jinx' as it relates to Panama, but the difference is that all the players are currently in competition," Burrell reiterated.
The group, which includes only three local-based players, midfielder Jermaine Hue and schoolboys Alvas Powell and André Lewis - included for developmental purposes - held their first training session on Monday and every other day since. Burrell, the Jamaica Football Federation president, is encouraged by their attitude.
"One positive sign that we've seen is that every single member of the squad has a burning desire to wear the black, green and gold and to represent Jamaica," he observed. "That is a very comforting feeling. They all want to do well for Jamaica and to keep our flag flying.
"Watching the players go through the training, in the hotel, going for their meals, you can detect a level of seriousness, you could detect the level of commitment and also, you could detect a sense of pride and an attitude of wanting to do well in the game and, therefore, I think the fans can expect a most exciting encounter against Panama, who have always played very well against Jamaica."
Both countries, along with Costa Rica and Mexico, have one point after drawing their opening matches in the hexagonal round-robin competition. Honduras, after beating the United States 2-1, lead with three points. The top three are guaranteed qualification to the 2014 World Cup Finals in Brazil, while the fourth-place team will play off against the Oceania champion to secure its berth.
Given the competitive nature of the series, Burrell wants nothing but a win against Panama.
"My prime target is to win the game and secure the three points," he said. "In this hexagonal round it is very important to secure the home points, and I am hoping that our players will continue with the same attitude that they have demonstrated in training and they will take this into the game and secure the three points for Jamaica."