Photo: Ladale Richie comes in to replace the suspended Kevon Lambert in central midfield for Jamaica in their Gold Cup semifinal clash with Mexico.
Jamaica will face Mexico in the semifinals of the CONCACAF Gold Cup today starting at 8:00pm local time, in a bid to make back to back visits to the finals of the region’s top football tournament. This will be the third time since 2015 that the two countries are facing each other as the both teams met in the final in 2015 where Mexico won 3-1.
The teams met in the groups stages in this tournament nine days ago and they played out a 0-0 draw, but in today’s game there must be a result, so the ultra defensive posture shown by Jamaica in that particular game will not be enough this time around.
The relatively new unit put together by head coach Theodore Whitmore has defied expectations to reach the semi-finals and will be under less pressure than the defending champions Mexico, who came under severe scrutiny, especially from their fans, after the dull draw with the Reggae Boyz.
El Tri will start the game as favourites despite leaving a number of their top players at home and will be expected to take the game to the Jamaicans. Mexico has scored six goals in four games while conceding only once while Jamaica has scored five goals while conceding two. Mexico has one of the meanest defences in the tournament and has not conceded a goal since their opening game against El Slavador.
Jamaica began the tournament with two shutouts but has conceded a goal in both of their last two games. Goalkeeper Andre Blake, who is also the captain, has been the player of the tournament for them so far, producing some fantastic saves in each game that has proven pivotal to the success of the Reggae Boyz to date. The Jamaican defence will have to concentrate better than they did against Canada in the quarterfinals if they are to advance to the final.
Romario Williams and Darren Mattocks have both scored twice for Jamaica and will be anxious to get on the score sheet to defy the huge odds and beat Mexico today.
The football played by the Caribbean boys has not always looked pretty but has proven effective, however the midfield will have to keep the ball much better this time around if they are to have any hopes of winning. Damion Lowe and Jermaine Taylor have been the central pair of choice in defence and they will have to minimize the errors at the back to keep out the Mexicans, who they blunted in the group stages.
The usually reserved Whitmore was a picture of confidence at the pre-game press conference.
“The confidence is high in the camp. We don’t want to be over confident going into the game…we know the Mexicans, we know they have a lot to offer, it’s a team we have to give a lot of respect based on what they have been doing over the years .
“We know it’s going to be a tough game…we are up for it…without saying much, we know the Mexican strengths, we know their weakness just as they would have known our strength and weakness, but we have to bring our ‘A’ game to the table and hope it works for us (so) at the end of the day we can come out victorious,” said a calm and composed Whitmore.
Montego Bay United player Ladale Richie will replace Kevon Lambert in central midfield after the latter picked up a second yellow card against Canada in the quarterfinals. Oniel Fisher who has been a bright light for Jamaica in the group stages has recovered from injury and is available for selection.
Whitmore defended what has been seen as a negative approach to the games so far in the Gold Cup.
“What has been working for us in this tournament is that we have tried to be mean in conceding goals and it has worked for us, so as much as possible we want to stay disciplined, we want to be compact in defence, but on the other hand I think the transition game is very important if we intend to get passed this Mexico team."
He did however state that a different tactical approach would be taken for the second go-round with the Mexicans.
“It will be a different approach to the game, it’s a must win game for both teams and we have the ammunition in terms of our attacking to go at this Mexico team, so it will be a totally different approach to the game than the one we played in the group stage.”
Having reached the semifinals of the competition and exceeded the expectations of most persons, Tappa Whitmore and his troops can afford to go into the game with the handbrakes off as they look to create a second semifinal shock, following on the win over the USA two years ago.