All hope seems lost. But the Reggae Boyz are not ready to throw in the towel yet. With only three points and more than a win-gap to the most reachable qualifying position, Jamaica’s senior men’s football team has no option but to beat leaders Costa Rica in their CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying (WCQ) match tonight.
The showdown at the National Stadium featuring the team at the top of the ladder versus the one at the bottom is set to kick off at 7 p.m. and newly appointed head coach of the Jamaica team, Winfried Schaefer, is under no illusions.
“We have to win … now we have to win all matches,” he said. “We have no choice.”
Head-to-head, Costa Rica hold a distinct advantage, winning 11 of their 23 clashes as opposed to Jamaica’s four.
There are six teams in the qualification series, all chasing three automatic spots to next year’s World Cup Finals in Brazil with the fourth team to face the Oceania champions in a two-way play-off.
The Mexicans, at fourth, are Jamaica’s target. If they beat the US and Jamaica lose then the Boyz are eliminated.
The Panama match left the Jamaican squad without two of its top players for this crucial game. Team captain and goalkeeper, Donovan Ricketts, was shown a yellow card, and is out because of an accumulation of cautions.
Another of the team’s most experienced players, top central midfielder Rodolph Austin was sent off for two bookable offences, and will serve a one-match suspension.
Austin should be replaced by Marvin Elliott. He was brought in at the expense of striker Marlon King to maintain the central midfield on Friday after the dismissal of Austin.
For last Friday’s match Schaefer made eight changes to the Jamaica team that started the match before. With Ricketts and Austin out changes must be made.
“I am not sure of the team as yet,” the head coach said after training on Sunday night. “We will see, we know we will have to make changes.”
coverage and strength
Importantly, on Friday, he also changed the long-adopted 4-4-2 formation to 3-5-2, which provided better coverage and strength with an additional player at the back. That system also worked as the Jamaica defence line battled hard to protect a clean sheet.
The task is expected to be harder against the Costa Ricans, who possess more guile and some very tricky attacking options, including captain Bryan Ruiz, Joel Campbell and Johnny Acosta. They have lost only one game to the United States, and have scored 10 goals, averaging nearly 1.5 per game.
That’s almost the same rate at which Jamaica’s defence had been conceding goals – eight in the seven matches.
Long-time defender Jermaine Taylor, Lloyd Doyley and debutant Westley Morgan, the Leicester City captain, were sturdy and efficient to ward off attacks on goal against Panama. There will be competition for those places today, with Adrian Mariappa eligible again after serving a suspension.
Offence is where the Reggae Boyz are lacking.
They have not won one game in the final round.
Luton Shelton, the country’s leading goalscorer with 35 in 74 matches, was the most dangerous Jamaican attacker on Friday, when the teams first met in Costa Rica the homesters won 2-0.
Elliott … should be among the starters today. – file
CONCACAF final round table
P W D L GF GA GD Pts
1. Costa Rica 7 4 2 1 10 4 6 14
2. United States 7 4 1 2 8 6 2 13
3. Honduras 7 3 1 3 8 8 0 10
4. Mexico 7 1 5 1 4 4 0 8
5. Panama 7 1 4 2 5 7 -2 7
6. Jamaica 7 0 3 4 2 8 -6 3
Jamaica vs Costa Rica
US vs Mexico
Honduras vs Panama