Sun | Oct 17, 2021

Golden opportunity - Reggae Boyz look to capitalise on historic National Stadium tournament debut

Published:Monday | June 17, 2019 | 12:27 AMLivingston Scott/Gleaner Writer

National senior men’s football team head coach Theodore ‘Tappa’ Whitmore anticipates a difficult game against Honduras when the Reggae Boyz meet them at the National Stadium in the Concacaf Gold Cup this evening. The game is a historic one for Jamaica as the country will host its first-ever games in the competition with a Group C double-header, starting at 6 this evening. The first game sees El Salvador taking on Curaçao, with the Reggae Boyz in action at 8:30 p.m.

Jamaica’s last game at the venue was a 4-0 win over neighbours the Cayman Islands in the Concacaf Nations League on Sunday, September 9, 2018, and Whitmore is hoping for a bigger crowd turnout tonight than on that occasion.

“The good thing is we have the first game at home,” he said. “We haven’t been in the ‘Office’ (the National Stadium, as it is nicknamed) for quite some while, and we have to go and show what we are made of, and consistency is going to be the key. We are coming off a good game against the US, and I don’t think we can drop our form going into the Honduras game.

“When we play away, the support that we see from other countries [is good]. We have to urge our fans to come out and support the Boyz. Once the Boyz can see the stadium filled to capacity, they know they will have to rise to the occasion and play. So the home advantage should give some boost to us, and if we get all three points, the momentum will take us into the El Salvador and Curaçao games, and in any tournament, you want to win your first game because the first game can decide how far you go. But from what I have seen from the team over the last few days, if they bring that into the game, I am confident we can get the three points,” he added.

Whitmore is, however, pleased with the team’s preparation.

“The training has been successful, and we have seen a lot of progress from the last game we played against the US. But Honduras is always going to be a challenge. It’s a tournament, so we have go and play. It will not be easy on the ball, so we have to finish (chances) if we want to be a part of the final,” he said.

The only injury concern going into the game is midfielder Michael Hector, who suffered a groin strain in the US game. However, the midfielder trained the last two days without discomfort, and medical staff will assess him one more time today before a final decision.

“For the last two days, he (Hector) has been through the session without complaint,” Whitmore said. “He has got a lot of treatment. His first training was yesterday (Saturday), and we had an intense workout. He has been through it, and then we trained this morning (yesterday) again. So we have to sit and talk to see how he feels for the game tomorrow (tonight). But we have players who can fit in as we try to cover all areas of the pitch,” he said.

Whitmore is also aware that after back-to-back final appearances, expectations are high from local fans.

“We don’t want to put ourselves under any undue pressure,” he said. “We have been to the Gold Cup final the last two editions, and we want to take it game by game and give a good account. That is where my focus is at the moment,” he said.