Jamaica reggae boyz will go into action this evening in a battle of former cham-pions when they take on Marti-nique in the feature match of a Group B double-header at the Montego Bay Sports Complex in the 2014 Caribbean Cup.
The opening game will see another former winner, 2007 champions Haiti, taking aim at the rapidly improving Antigua & Barbuda.
Jamaica’s under-pressure coach, Winfried Schäfer, needs a win in order to stave off calls for his sacking, and starting with victory this afternoon is paramount for the coach.
“We need to win,” he said.
Schäfer, whose tenure as the Reggae Boyz head coach has come in for scrutiny as a result of a series of poor results, told The Gleaner that the team has been training well and is ready to take on Martinique.
“A couple of our players came in late, including midfielder Rudolph Austin and the other England-based players, but they have settled in already and are with the team in training,” Schäfer said.
The Reggae Boyz no doubt will start as slight favourites, but they know well that only a victory will appease local supporters.
Schäfer thinks the team strength is in attack, where they boast the likes of Vancouver Whitecaps’ Darren Mattocks, Craig Foster (Reno FC), Deshorn Brown (Colorado Rapids) and Michael Seaton (DC United).
“Our strength is in the forward line. We have some good quality all round, but I think that it is where we are strongest because they all are skilful also,” said Schäfer.
“We cannot afford to lose the first match; that would be disastrous, so we are going to be positive and play good football. Hopefully, we take the three points,” Schäfer added.
The last time these two countries met in the Caribbean Cup, it ended in a 0-0 draw, but that was back in 2012. Since then, the Boyz have seen their luck fluctuate and more recently have slumped in the FIFA Coca-Cola word rankings, plummeting to 113th.
Martinique’s head coach, Louis Marie’ann, believes his squad can get the job done, admitting that he is cautiously optimistic of his team’s chances against the hosts.
“It is very important not to start on the wrong foot,” he said. “A number of our players were born in France and we brought them in to augment our local-based players.
“The downside to this is that we have not played a competitive match with this mix before, so going up against Jamaica will be an important test of our readiness,” said Marie’ann, who predicts a 2-2 draw.
“We are expecting a good game and I hope at least that if we do not win, we draw,” reasoned Marie’ann.
Martinique have appeared in 12 Caribbean Cups, winning their first and only title in 1993. In that tournament, which, ironically, was staged in Jamaica, Martinique defeated the hosts 6-5 on penalties in the final at the National Stadium.
Haiti vs Antigua and Barbuda at 5:30 p.m.
Jamaica vs Martinique at 8 p.m.
Name: Deshorn Brown
Position played: Forward
Club: Colorado Rapids FC
Prediction against Martinique: 2-0 win for Jamaica
Personal target: Four goals or more.
Reggae Boyz forward and former high-school standout, Deshorn Brown has laid down some personal markers for this year’s Caribbean Football Union Caribbean Cup in Montego Bay.
Brown has had a good season for his club team, Colorado Rapids FC of Major League Soccer and is now ready to light up Montego Bay with goals for the Reggae Boyz.
“I think it will be a successful championship for us, both on and off the field. We need a win in our first match, and that is what as a team we are going about doing,” Brown said.
“We want to take it all from training and the experience we have and package it just right for this tournament,” he added.
Name: Hughan Gray
Position: Right wing back
Club: Waterhouse FC
School: Denbigh High
Prediction against Martinique: 3-0 win for Jamaica.
Personal target: Stop the opponents’ forwards going forward.
Hughan Gray is the first player from Denbigh High School in Clarendon to play for the national senior team.
The powerfully built wing back is seeking to make the position his own and has looked the part primarily for his club, team Waterhouse FC, in the local Red Stripe Premier League.
His aspirations are inexplicably linked to the success of this current Reggae Boyz squad.
“Once we put in the right amount of work, I think we will win and I am sure the other players are of the same mindset,” Gray said.
“It’s a tight squad; we want to play for each other and succeed together, and in training, it’s a good feel .”