JAMAICA make their Copa America bow this summer and the Reggae Boyz aren’t here to just to make up the numbers. Mark O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) quizzed Nathan Carr (@caribbeanftbl), editor of The Home of Caribbean Football, about their chances of success.
- Outright Winner: 500/1 (SkyBet)
- Group B Winner: 50/1 (William Hill)
- Top-Two Finish Group B: 16/1 (SkyBet)
- Highest Scoring Team: 500/1 (SkyBet)
- Form Post-World Cup: W4-D2-L2
Nathan Carr’s View
What are Jamaica’s realistic hopes/aims and expectations?
Realistically, the best that Jamaica can hope for is progression from the group stage. Many will invariably write them off before a ball is even kicked such is the size of the island and the fact they’re completely new to the Copa America. But the tournament has a history of being kind to the lesser nations because of its unique layout.
So Jamaica must not approach their group games with trepidation but with quiet confidence. Group B includes Argentina and Uruguay – both will be expected to occupy the top two spots – leaving Paraguay and Jamaica. It will likely be between these two to battle for third position.
Jamaican boss Winfried Schaefer will be targeting this Copa campaign as an experiment – to test some newcomers, assess the home-grown crop and fine-tune the team with an eye on the CONCACAF Gold Cup to kick-off a month later.
I’m sure many Jamaican people would be delighted if their country got out of the group. Anything from there onward is an added bonus. They must relish this rare opportunity and make the most of it; after all, it’s not every day that you get to face up against the likes of Lionel Messi and Edinson Cavani.
How are they set-up formation-wise? What’s their style?
In the last year Schaefer – who steered Cameron to the African Nations Cup title in 2002 – has experimented with several different formations. Schaefer went with Darren Mattocks as a lone striker in the 2014 Caribbean Cup, the region’s main international competition that Jamaica won for the sixth time, and it paid off. Mattocks finished joint top scorer and he was fed by an attacking midfield trio of Dane Richards, Simon Dawkins and Jobi McAnuff, the latter enjoying a particularly impressive campaign.
In the most recent friendly victories against Venezuela and Cuba, US-based Giles Barnes was called up for the first time to play off Mattocks. That also paid dividends as Barnes scored on his debut. There’s lots of flexibility for Schaefer and his coaching staff with Lewis Grabban set to come in for the Copa too.
Jamaicans are naturally fast and athletic so, when the right situations arise, they can be devastatingly effective on the counter-attack. The discipline and sturdiness of captain Rodolph Austin gives the more expressive players the freedom to bomb forward and create chances.
It isn’t in Jamaica’s DNA to play conservative, boring football. They have the quality available to offer danger in the final third and their squad is packed with pace.
One of Jamaica’s key strengths is, as mentioned, their raw speed and athleticism. This is often very useful not only when penetrating the opposition but also in a defensive sense, meaning the defenders can track back and cover more efficiently.
Kemar Lawrence is a hugely promising player – an attack-minded left-back whose father Orville Edwards was Jamaica’s goalkeeper in the 1970s, he has been one of New York Red Bulls stand-out stars since moving from Harbour View earlier this year. He offers energy, guile and crossing ability from the left.
Another feather in their cap is the amount of offensive options they possess, with Schaefer able to call upon the likes of the aforementioned Mattocks, Barnes, Grabban, Dawkins, McAnuff and Richards as well as English-based trio Joel Grant, Garath McCleary and Jamar Loza. There’s a nice balance of home-grown talent and experience from the diaspora.
What’s more, Jamaica have picked up momentum at the perfect time: they’ve won five on the spin, keeping four clean sheets in the process. The nation’s Caribbean Cup victory has given them an injection of confidence and they’ll be hoping that works to their advantage at the Copa.
Perhaps a weakness in times gone by has been that Schaefer hasn’t known what his best eleven is. But now the team are beginning to find some consistency and familiarity which is really important.
A potential weakness for them is that they’ve never played at the Copa before and this will be a completely new experience. Will they be daunted and overpowered by South America’s stars? Will they have the mental strength to cope in front of such vast crowds with the world watching on TV? Some of the players who will be called up will have featured in last summer’s friendly defeat to France so they should be slightly more accustomed.
All-in-all, this current Jamaican team is in good shape. They’re on an impressive run with a piece of Caribbean silverware under their belt. Let’s see if any weaknesses begin to develop in Chile.
My prediction is that Jamaica will lose to Argentina, maybe pick up a shock point against Uruguay and beat Paraguay to qualify for the quarter-finals as one of the two best third-place teams (optimistic but you’ve got to be!).
It’s a fantastic opportunity and one that they should relish in preparation for their regional Gold Cup campaign in July, in which they’ll have considerably more pressure placed upon them.
Mark O’Haire’s View
As Nathan suggest above, Jamaica’s hopes, dreams and aspirations must be set around securing third place and a potential quarter-final place based on a victory over Paraguay. And there’s certainly room to be optimistic on that front…
Paraguay’s ageing squad have toiled in recent years and new boss Ramon Diaz has had little preparation time to whip the side into shape. Jamaica’s pace, power and fearlessness could easily work in their favour with a surprise element to boot.
Penetrating the top two in Group B looks almost impossible. It’s all about the showdown on 16th June for the Reggae Boyz and their sprinkling of English and MLS-based players are primed for an upset.
- Jamaica vs Uruguay | 13th June 2015 | 20.00 | Premier Sports
- Jamaica vs Paraguay | 16th June 2015 | 22.00 | Premier Sports
- Jamaica vs Argentina | 20th June 2015 | 22.30 | Premier Sports
Jamaica Form & Stats
|Last 10 Competitive Games||W2-D5-L3||Last 20 Competitive Games||W3-D8-L9|
|0-0 Draw||2/10||0-0 Draw||4/20|
|Over 1.5 Goals||8/10||Over 1.5 Goals||13/20|
|Over 2.5 Goals||3/10||Over 2.5 Goals||6/20|
|Over 3.5 Goals||1/10||Over 3.5 Goals||2/20|
|Over 4.5 Goals||0/10||Over 4.5 Goals||1/20|
|Both Teams To Score||4/10||Both Teams To Score||8/20|
|Fail To Score||4/10||Fail To Score||10/20|
|Clean Sheet||4/10||Clean Sheet||6/20|
|HT Draw||5/10||HT Draw||11/20|
|Over 1.5 Team Goals||3/10||Over 1.5 Team Goals||4/20|
|Win + Both Teams To Score||0/10||Win + Both Teams To Score||1/20|
*All stats and form correct until 30 May 2015*