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Schäfer eyes Gold Cup semis

Published:Monday | July 6, 2015 | 12:00 AM

HAWTHORNE, California:

JAMAICA'S Reggae Boyz will be looking to develop the lessons learnt at the Copa America, as they continue their preparation for the 2018 World Cup in competition.

Tomorrow, they kick off here against Costa Rica in their regional championship - the CONCACAF Gold Cup - and Winfried Schäfer, the team's head coach, drew on the words of one of the world's greatest-ever boxers to underline the transition he seeks from Boyz, looking to chart their own path to greatness.

Schäfer said he watched a documentary on Muhammad Ali recently, and these words stuck on him: "... I was happy about my success, my winning, but I was more happy about losing ... from these fights I learnt more."

In looking at Reggae Boyz's current scenario, he continued: "We lost three matches. From losing, I learnt more."

The Jamaicans have just returned from first-time participation in the South America championship, as invited guests. They lost matches in the group stage by 1-0 margins against some of the game's biggest teams, including Argentina, beaten World Cup and Copa finalists; Uruguay, the world No. 8; and Paraguay, which had lost to Uruguay in the previous tournament final.

The CONCACAF Gold Cup is Jamaica's own big tournament. Now they are looking to make their mark.


Striving for more


"The Copa was good, now we want more, we want to get to the semi-finals.

"...We have to work harder," the 65-year-old coach admitted. "I'm a German. The German coach, he never stops training."

More means goals also, the vastly significant all-important element of the game.

"It's not only the striker, the midfielders have to be looking for goals," he continued, noting that they must do better with corners and free-kicks, given that a high percentage of conversions come from set pieces.

"Both tournaments for me is for World Cup qualification," said Schäfer.

"In the 2013 Gold Cup, Jamaica did not qualify. Honduras, Costa Rica, Panama, the States all qualified. The four teams played in the Gold Cup, and they were fit," he observed of the key in-competition preparation of countries that kicked Jamaica from the last World Cup qualification

"Now they have a chance, from both tournaments we can build a strong team for the qualification. The Copa was very good football, but nobody, the players or the coaching staff, believe it's going to be easy against Costa Rica, Canada, El Salvador."


No pressure


Those are Jamaica's group-phase opponents in the Gold Cup. It is a step down to the Copa, but Schäfer said there's no pressure on the Boyz.

"There's no pressure ... They (players) must say I want to win; the players have to work for this.

"We played well against Uruguay, in the second half against Paraguay, in the last 30 minutes against Argentina. We have more courage in ourselves now. This is what I want, the players have to learn," Schäfer said.

"From these matches, we learn what we have to do."

- A.B.