Mon | Dec 5, 2022

Hallgrimsson embracing Argentina challenge

Icelander encouraged by mood in Jamaican camp

Published:Tuesday | September 27, 2022 | 12:07 AMDaniel Wheeler/Staff Reporter
Above: Argentina forward Lionel Messi scores a penalty against Honduras during the first half of an international friendly football match in Miami Gardens, Florida last Friday. Argentina won 3-0.
Above: Argentina forward Lionel Messi scores a penalty against Honduras during the first half of an international friendly football match in Miami Gardens, Florida last Friday. Argentina won 3-0.
Jamaica defender Damion Lowe (17)
Jamaica defender Damion Lowe (17)

The first step in new national senior men’s head coach Heimir Hallgrimsson’s journey with the Reggae Boyz begins tonight when they face the two-time World Cup champions Argentina at Red Bull Arena in New Jersey at 7 p.m. Jamaica time.

Electing to immerse himself immediately into the fire two weeks after his appointment, Hallgrimsson said that he has been encouraged by the mood in the camp despite the limited time he has had to work with the team, as well as how receptive they have been to the new voice they will have to lead them for the next four years.

During a pre-game press conference yesterday, the Icelander emphasised the importance of togetherness in their approach against a team in their final preparations before the 2022 World Cup begins in two months’ time.

“I think they (Reggae Boyz) have been productive. We have tried to give them as much information as possible without overloading them. It is always a risk of overloading the information, so we have tried to be selective in what we want to change,” Hallgrimsson said. “The tactics we want to do, it is not solely in our hands. We have to adapt to what Argentina is doing. They will have a majority of possession, they will high press. So we can kind of predict how the game will be played. But first and foremost to play a team like Argentina, we have to play with power, play as a unit. That is a must if you want to get a result.”

National defender Damion Lowe says that they have embraced Hallgrimsson’s philosophy during their two training sessions and are looking to display signs of that vision in their new journey.

(There is) a lot of optimism. I think that everyone has bought into what the coach wants to do and his vision and the plan that we have for tomorrow. The two sessions were very good from back to front and I think the players are sharp and looking forward to (tonight),” Lowe said.

Hallgrimsson’s initial message to the team has been not only to outline his expectations of them, but to slowly cultivate an identity that the team will be able to employ. With a strong Jamaican contingent present in the New Jersey era, Hallgrimsson’s desire is for fans to see pieces of that identity, commitment, and desire to forge a strong connection similar to what he built during his time in Iceland.

“The players on the pitch will have to show their willingness to fight for the national team, to fight together. It is not about who is the flashiest one. And I think that is one of the reasons why we need to have a clear identity,” Hallgrimsson said.

“So what does the Jamaican supporter want to see on the pitch? I think everyone who watches football wants to see that the player has the desire to play, has the effort to give to the nation. And then Jamaicans like to see a flair and creativity, and so we have to make a platform for the players to be able to do that. We have to be organised and give some players more freedom to express themselves. That is what I like to see - players really put in an effort tomorrow whatever the scoreline will be. I think then the people will appreciate it no matter the result.”

Hallgrimsson enters his first game having to deal with a few personnel issues. Richard King could not make the trip because of a visa problem, Waterhouse’s Ricardo Thomas replaced the injured Gregory Leigh and Maliek Howell being added to the squad. Even with these changes Hallgrimsson has called on his players to “let their feet do the talking” against a team they have not had success against. Jamaica have lost all three of their meetings against Argentina dating back to 1998. In their last meeting on June 20, 2015 Argentina won 1-0 with a first half goal from Gonzalo Higuain.

The Lionel Messi-led Argentinians are in top form and on a 34-game unbeaten run. Last Friday, they blanked Honduras 3-0 at the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami, with Messi scoring twice. His goals included a brilliant lob over the goalkeeper from the edge of the box.