The Reggae Boyz fired up for Gold Cup

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Photo: Reggae Boyz coach Winfired Schafer will be hoping for a good start today as Jamaica bows into action in the CONCACAF Gold Cup against group favourites Costa Rica.

Despite losing all three games by an identical 1-0 margin in the recently concluded Copa America, Jamaica's 'Reggae Boyz' can hold their heads high in confidence heading into the Gold Cup in the USA. Though they weren't expected to lift the coveted Copa America trophy, they made their country proud in that tournament.

Jamaica now turns their attention to the 13th staging of the Concacaf Gold Cup, which will be held in United States and Canada from July 7-26 2015. The Boyz are drawn in group B‘ alongside Costa Rica who they will tackle on July 8, Canada who they will face on July 11, and El Salvador who they will meet in their final game in the group on July 14.

Jamaica is expected to go a long way in this competition. Of the teams they will face in the first round, Jamaica's FIFA ranking is better than their opponents, except for Costa Rica. However, of the four teams in group B only Canada has won the championship in 2000, while Jamaica finished 3rd in 1993, El Salvador made it to a few quarter finals and Costa Rica finished as runner up in 2002. With a real test in the Copa America and having to play the World Cup qualifiers later this year, Jamaica would want to stamp their authority and class from now to win the hearts of the fans for the 2018 World Cup campaign.

Winfred Shaefer has not yet commanded the respect he fully deserves and with not so handsome stats he would really like to prove his worth. Coach Schaefer has a record of P-14, W-2 D-4 L-8, but he is really fired up and is hoping after this tournament his stats will look more attractive.

In an effort to improve his stats the African Nations cup winner has called up local based striker Andre Clennon, who currently plays for Red Stripe Premier League Champions Arnett Gardens. Along with Clennon only one other local based player Alan Ottey who plays for Montego Bay United, was named among the contingent of players. They will join the existing forward lineup of Darren mattocks and Giles Barnes who played in the recent Copa America tournament. Michael Seaton will also return to the squad after helping Jamaica to win the Caribbean Championships last year. Giles Barnes shows he has the ability to get behind any defence and he indeed posed a lot of threat to Argentina in their last outing. Mattock had a relatively average performance but needed to be more clinical in front of goal.

Blake who represents MLS team Philadelphia Union and Ryan Thompson who plays for Pittsburgh Riverhounds in the United States Soccer League (USL), joins Dwayne Miller in the goal keeping trio, with Dwayne Kerr left out of the lineup.

The defensive unit sees the return of Michael Hector who made his debut at the Copa America, along with Demar Philips and Alvas Powell who make their return since the Caribbean championship. The defensive unit is completed by lance Laing, Kemar ‘taxi’ Lawrence, Adrian Mariappa, Wes Morgan, Jermaine Taylor.

The midfield aggregation which is expected to be led again by Captain Rudolph Austin, is completed by Simon Dawkins, Joel Grant, Christopher Humphrey, Joel McAnuff, Garath McCleary and Je-Vaughn Watson.

Jamaica stood tall in the presence of giants with their unshakeable character and lion-hearted resistance and demonstrated for the first time in a long time a tactical grasp and discipline that earned the respect of their opponents. With their performances still on the lips of fans, one should expect them to advance from the group alongside Costa Rica.