Always prepare properly, regardless of the opponent

Saturday, August 18, 2018

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The tendency to underestimate others is a human weakness that has led to many a downfall. It is very evident in competitive sport.

National coach Mr Theodore Whitmore, a servant of Jamaica's football since his international début as a crafty midfielder in the early to mid-1990s, has had his fair share of watching teams fall by the wayside — ambushed and beaten because they discounted the opposition.

Hence his concern at what he clearly believes is slack and inadequate preparation for the Reggae Boyz' participation in the inaugural Concacaf Nations League, which kicks off next month with Jamaica facing the Cayman Islands in Kingston.

Note his words of warning: “We might take it simple, but playing against these Caribbean neighbours is like them playing their World Cup, because they don't get to play these sorts of games on a regular basis, playing teams like Jamaica. So we know it is going to be difficult, so it doesn't make sense we sit down and feel like 'oh, we are playing against Grenada', and 'oh, we playing against Barbados'. It is the same trend we see like for the Cayman (Islands) game. We are taking it lightly, like 'oh, we playing against Cayman'.

“Now if you look at the last World Cup, things change. We don't have any weak teams again, everybody is preparing and we have to prepare too, we have to lift our standard.”

Mr Whitmore may well have added that Jamaica has felt the sting of defeat from all of those Caribbean sister nations just mentioned, including Cayman Islands. More mature football watchers will remember a desolate night in the early 1990s when Cayman defeated Jamaica 3-2 in that country.

Mr Whitmore's comments came as he looked ahead to last night's away friendly against Grenada. He had other concerns including the make-up of his team for last night's game, as well as a follow-up friendly against Barbados in Bridgetown on Monday.

But from our perspective, the more crucial point surrounds overall preparation for the Nations League.

This new competition is intended as a qualification for the Concacaf Gold Cup. Jamaicans will recall that the Reggae Boyz were surprise finalists in the last two renditions of the Gold Cup.

Some may feel that those achievements should have allowed the national team to be automatic qualifiers. Not so. Those who made it to the final round of Concacaf qualification for the recent FIFA World Cup in Russia are the automatic qualifiers. They are: Mexico, USA, Honduras, Costa Rica, Panama, and Trinidad and Tobago.

To reach the Concacaf Gold Cup, the Reggae Boyz will have to top a group which includes Cayman Islands, Bonaire, Suriname, and El Salvador. It won't be easy. Any thoughts to the contrary should be put firmly aside.

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