¡Día de Los Muertos!
Reggae Boyz planning to heap pressure on flagging MexicanCoach respects opposition quality but banks on home-turf advantage
STILL CLINGING on to their slim hopes of advancing to this year’s FIFA World Cup tournament, Jamaica’s Reggae Boyz will enter today’s massive qualifier against Mexico inside the National Stadium determined to secure maximum three points. The match is scheduled to start at 7 p.m.
The Jamaicans will then travel to Panama City, where they will face the hosts on January 30. The Boyz are at home to Costa Rica on February 2.
The Reggae Boyz are currently sixth in the eight-team standings with seven points after eight matches.
Mexico and Panama are third and fourth, respectively, on the Concacaf points standing with 14 points. The Reggae Boyz must beat these two countries to maintain any hope of getting to fourth in the standing.
PLAYOFF FOR LAST SPOT
The top-three teams qualify automatically for the World Cup while the fourth-place team will enter an intercontinental playoff for the last available spot.
The Concacaf World Cup qualifying table is led by Canada with 16 points. The United States are next on 15. Costa Rica are just ahead of Jamaica in fifth spot with nine points.
Reggae Boyz head coach Paul Hall said the players are well aware of what is at stake but that it was very important for them to maintain composure and discipline throughout the match.
“I think the most important thing is not to be easily beaten because the longer we can stay in the game, then we have a chance to win it and we have players that can win the game for us,” said Hall.
“I think that players know what is expected of them, and there is probably a slight anxiousness about them, which is good because they are playing against a good team, but we are on home turf,” he said.
“The mindset is that we need to be confident about what we are doing because we can’t worry about what the Mexicans are doing. We just have to stick to our targets,” Hall said.
The Reggae Boyz suffered a narrow 2-1 defeat to the Mexicans in their opening qualifier at the Estadio Azteca in Mexico City.
However, the Mexicans have been on a poor run of form lately, with two defeats coming in their last two qualifying matches.
MEXICAN PLAYERS OUT
To make matters worse, the Mexicans will be without star playmaker Hirving “Chucky’ Lozano for today’s game on account of yellow card accumulations. And they will also be without star striker Raúl Jiménez, who is suffering from a calf injury.
The Reggae Boyz are coming off 1-1 draws against El Salvador and the United States in their last two qualifiers.
Hall, a United Kingdom-born former Reggae Boy, helped the team qualify for its sole berth at a FIFA World Cup back in 1998.
He pointed out that he respects the Mexican team because they are a good all-round side, but Jamaicans must go out and defend their home turf.
“I think that the movement and the rotation that goes on in their team is very good. I think that the Mexicans are going to come here not wanting to lose, but they also want to win this game as well, and they probably are going to have the same attitude like ourselves, and so I feel it is going to be a tight affair,” Hall said.
“We will respect the Mexicans and what they bring, but I am going to make the Mexicans respect us and what we bring with our energy and our rhythm and our desire and the fact that we are home,” he said.
The Reggae Boyz will be led by West Ham United striker Michail Antonio, who has scored two goals in his last two matches for Jamaica. Andre Gray, Bobby Reid, Cory Burke and Junior Flemmings are the other options for the Reggae Boyz coaching staff up front.
Captain Andre Blake is expected to start in goal with Damion Lowe, Liam Moore, Kemar Lawrence, and Gregory Leigh in defence. Ravel Morrsion, Devon Williams, Daniel Johnson, Lamar Walker, and Kevin Stewart are midfield options for the Jamaicans.