Boyz set Japan test
THE Reggae Boyz will finalise preparations for November's Caribbean Cup in Montego Bay when they engage 2002 FIFA World Cup Finals co-hosts Japan in a friendly international on Friday, October 10.
The match, which was confirmed by Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) president Captain Horace Burrell, yesterday, is scheduled to kick off at 7:25 pm (5:25 am Jamaica time) at the Denka Big Swan Stadium in Niigata City, Japan.
According to Captain Burrell, securing this game could not have come at a more opportune time for head coach Winfried Schaefer and his Boyz, moreso because of the platform that it provides for the coach to continue assessing and fine-tuning his players heading into the Caribbean Cup a month later, and also because of the negotiating skills that were required to seal the deal.
"We have been negotiating for this game for the past year," revealed Captain Burrell when contacted yesterday. "And while in Brazil (for the just-concluded World Cup Finals) I followed up discussions with my Japanese counterparts, and I would say Jamaica is fortunate to succeed because there were a number of other CONCACAF teams interested in the game, but in the end our strong international relationships won through."
This game marks the fourth meeting between the two countries, who first met as debutantes in Lyon, France, on June 26 at the 1998 FIFA World Cup Finals when former head coach Theodore Whitmore hit a brace to steer the Reggae Boyz to a 2-1 victory.
The teams then met on June 6, 2000 at the King Hassan Cup in Morocco when the Asians hammered the Boyz 4-0.
Two years later the Boyz journeyed to Tokyo for a friendly international against Zico's Japan on October 16, when Ricardo Fuller netted in a 1-1 result.
At the World Cup Finals, Japan flattered to deceive, earning just a point in their Group C preliminary phase with a 0-0 result with Greece, after going down to the Ivory Coast 1-2, then being humiliated 1-4 by Colombia.
For the Boyz, they have had a series of high-profile friendlies prior to the World Cup Finals -- 1-2 against Serbia in New Jersey, 0-1 against Switzerland in Luzerne, 2-2 with Egypt in London, before being whipped 0-8 by France in Lille, to end an energy-sapping two-week stretch which included games on both sides of the Atlantic.
The Boyz are slated to face Canada on September 9 in Toronto, and the JFF boss believes this latest fixture against Japan is in keeping with the federation's policy of providing the opportunities for the technical staff and players to develop.
"One should remember also that the Caribbean Cup champions get an automatic berth to the most anticipated football tournament on this continent, the 2016 Copa Centenario to be held in the United States," noted Captain Burrell.
The Caribbean Cup is slated for November 10-18, and the champions, along with Mexico, USA, the Central American champions and two teams to be determined from next year's CONCACAF Gold Cup placing, will make up the six teams from CONCACAF to join the 10 South American (CONMEBOL) teams in the USA in the Copa Centenario in 2016.
Coincidentally, the Reggae Boyz have already been invited to the 2015 Copa America in Chile, where they could come head to head with the continent's powerhouses: Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, and Colombia, among others.