Like most people, when the it was announced that Jamaica was drawn alongside two-time World Cup winners Argentina and Uruguay, as well for former South American champions Paraguay for the next Copa America, I shuddered at the prospects of the Reggae Boyz escaping consecutive drubbings at the hands of perhaps three of the best teams in the world and certainly three of the best in South America.
The respective coaches of those football powerhouses must certainly be licking their chops anticipating running up the goal count as they seek every possible advantage with which to advance from what, on paper, seems to be an extremely tough group, Jamaica’s presence notwithstanding.
Conversely, there are those here at home and within the Diaspora who harbour delusions of grandeur wherein Jamaica wins the group and goes on to win the Copa America. These are same people who believed we should have beaten France and Switzerland earlier this year as those teams prepared for the World Cup in Brazil. These are the same folks who will call for the head of the coach, Captain Burrell and company of the Reggae Boyz don’t win a match.
Whichever way you look at it, Jamaica faces a daunting task not to get mauled on the field when the competition gets underway from June 11 to July 4, 2015. But despite this, being drawn in this group is an opportunity for those players seeking to be selected for the campaign to raise their game and make Jamaica competitive.
This is an opportunity for them to get their fitness levels up to the level where the Reggae Boyz can run with these teams for 90 minutes and beyond. It also presents a grand opportunity for the players and coaching staff to engage in serious study of how these teams play, analyze their strengths and weaknesses and what styles and formations work best in countering how they play.
Oftentimes when facing these daunting tasks, we tend to shrink into a corner awaiting what we believe to be the inevitable, but what a joy it would be if Jamaica was to go into this tournament and pull off major surprises; not necessarily by beating these powerhouses but by pushing them to the very limit in each and every match.
Such performances would not only raise the credibility of the Boyz but also improve the chances of the team being invited back to the competition, which would help significantly in getting even more exposure to the very highest quality of play. Ultimately, it will help Jamaica raise its standard of play.
The players representing Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay may be more technically sound than those representing Jamaica but where Jamaica has the advantage is in athleticism.
As Waterhouse’s Hughan Gray said following the successful Caribbean Cup campaign, local based players need to work harder to enhance their chances of gaining selection to the national squad. My personal take is that many local players need to take a much more professional approach. They need to learn about periodization and how it will help raise their levels of fitness and they must engage in study of the game itself. Football is more than just a physical pursuit. How do we think the best players and coaches get to where they are? They became masters of their own game buy studying hard, but that is something that many of our players ignore.
Developing one’s ability to analyze opposing players and systems, which requires hours of reading and watching tape, can provide players with an additional advantage. It can help the team improve and also be of a big help to the coaching staff. When players can engage in useful exchange of information and ideas about how to improve the game they play and how to counter an opponent’s game, everyone benefits and that, I believe, should be Jamaica’s aim going forward.