THE historic 0-0 result away to Mexico is now history. The huge target is now Panama.
That's the message sent by Reggae Boyz head coach Theodore Whitmore yesterday, fully two weeks ahead of the crucial World Cup Qualifier here at Kingston's National Stadium.
Whitmore was addressing the media at the Jamaica Football Federation's headquarters prior to the announcement of Jamaica's 24-man squad for that engagement, as well as another away game to Costa Rica four days later.
Strikers Luton Shelton and Jermaine Beckford, as well as 30-year-old Watford defender Lloyd Doyley are the three changes effected to this squad, who has been increased by one over the last squad. They replace defender Damion Stewart and midfielder Jason Morrison.
"Our next two games are indeed our focus," Whitmore said. "We will take it one game at a time and do all we can to pick up as many points as we can. Our eyes are now fixed on Panama. It will be very tough, but so is life. We respect every team in the campaign, but we have confidence also in our capacity to achieve," added the two-goal hero from Jamaica's 1998 World Cup Finals 2-1 victory over Japan.
Whitmore noted that the team's focus cannot and should not be on the last game, as outstanding as it was. For this campaign, he said, the focus must always be on the next game and on the group of players his technical staff will prepare for the assignments.
"This hexagonal round will continue to be tough. Every team we face will come with greater resolve than the one before. Every team will be fighting for every point. No game will be easy.
"We therefore must prepare ourselves for good moments and unfortunate moments. That has been my experience as a player and coach in World Cup Qualifying campaigns," he asserted.
The coach explained that due to the nation's limited resources, they have to work twice as hard in some areas for realistic support, and he urged fans to throw their support behind the Boyz's efforts.
"I have remarked publicly the absolute critical role this support will play during the campaign and in particular when we play our home games. As a player I am very cognisant of how vital home support is on helping the team, motivating the team and a great source of inspiration for the team. Without this support our task is so much more difficult if not impossible.
"Therefore, this remains my call, my appeal. We have nine games to arrive in Brazil 2014, let's not lose the moment. Whatever differences we have in opinions are not sufficiently significant to distract from the greater good of qualifying Jamaica to another World Cup," Whitmore said.
Jamaica are currently in mid table in the six-team final round of CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying Series with one point, the same as Mexico, Panama and Costa Rica, with Honduras on top with three points, and the USA rooted at the bottom without a point.
Meanwhile, the 29-year-old Huddersfield front man Beckford, who was named in Jamaica's 23-man squad to face Mexico, but was forced to withdraw the following day due to an injury, is raring to don the black, green and gold colours of Jamaica on the international scene.
"I just wanted to say how excited I am to be representing Jamaica at last, and this season I have been unlucky with injuries, which is frustrating for me, but I'm back, I'm fit and I'm looking forward to giving my all and doing everything I can to help the Reggae Boyz get to Rio," he said in a pre-recorded media clip.
"I understand that we need roughly around 16, 17, 18 points which is almost a guarantee to get there (qualifying for Brazil) and I'm sure that myself and all of the boys, we are willing to give everything that we've got to achieve that.
"I'm excited for the opportunity to represent Jamaica, I'm excited about seeing the crowds and the fans of the country come together, get behind everybody and we are all excited about making it to the World Cup in Brazil 2014, so I'm hoping everybody comes out and shows their support as they did so against Mexico and hopefully we can make the nation proud," he added.
Doyley, a first-time invitee who has been added to bolster the wingback position, was equally excited about the prospects of playing for Jamaica.
"It has been a long time coming, but I'm very grateful to finally get a call up to Jamaica. I'm very excited and fully committed to helping us progress to the World Cup in Brazil, so I'll see you in Jamaica in a couple of weeks time, and we are asking everyone to come out and support the team against Panama."
In 11 meetings between the two countries, Panama hold the advantage with five wins, against four draws and just two losses.
Meanwhile, JFF president Captain Horace Burrell has advised that tickets will go on sale for the match on Saturday, March 16 at the regular outlets with the following prices — Bleachers, $1,500; Category One Grandstand, $4,500 and Category Two Grandstand, $5,500.
The full squad — Donovan Ricketts, Dwayne Miller, DuWayne Kerr, Jermaine Taylor, Nyron Nosworthy, Adrian Mariappa, Omar Daley, Demar Phillips, Rodolph Austin, Marvin Elliott, Lloyd Doyley, Dane Richards, Joel McAnuff, Jermaine Johnson, Garath McCleary, Theo Robinson, Je-Vaughn Watson, Tramaine Stewart, Ryan Johnson, Jermaine Beckford, Luton Shelton, Alvas Powell, Andre Lewis, Jermaine Hue.