Get it right! Boyz aim to overcome Panama hiccup

Tappa: I think we are on the right track

IAN BURNETT with the REGGAE BOYZ in Costa Rica - WORLD CUP QUALIFIER

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

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SAN JOSE, Costa Rica — The uphill struggle continues, as Jamaica's Reggae Boyz will be asked to beat the odds yet again in enemy territory if they are to get a positive result.

That's the situation when they face Costa Rica in-their third round CONCACAF World Cup Qualifier here at the Estadio Nacional at 8:00 pm (9:00 pm Jamaica time) today.

Jamaica are in joint third, with two points, following 0-0 and 1-1 results away to Mexico and at home to Panama, respectively, while Costa Rica are currently stuck at the bottom of the hexagonal with a solitary point from their 2-2 result away to Panama, and their contentious 0-1 loss to the USA in blustery conditions in Colorado.

This one point from six marks the worst start for Costa Rica since the hexagonal was established, and their hungry fans are hoping for nothing less than a victory, to kick-start their campaign, against a team, which has a vastly inferior record against the Central Americans. This marks the first game at home for Costa Rica, more popularly known as 'Los Ticos', since the final phase began on
February 6.

In 22 meetings between the two teams, Jamaica have managed just four wins, as against 10 losses and eight draws. It is therefore no surprise that the Reggae Boyz have never won, or even shared the spoils in Costa Rica, which puts into perspective today's task.

Coming off the high in the Azteca, the Boyz were far from their best on Friday, but there is every indication that they will give a better rendition today.

Head coach Theodore Whitmore is pleased with the reaction of the players since arriving here on Saturday morning.

"It (training session on Sunday) was very successful, the guys were somewhat lively, and that was the sort of response we wanted. No complaints so far, and I think the hotel facility has helped us a lot in terms of recuperation; so I think we are on the right track," he said.

He added: "The training was fun, they enjoyed it, and the good part about it is that I haven't heard any complaints so far."

On Saturday the Boyz used the spa and swimming pool at their Real Intercontinental hotel to recuperate, before taking to the pitch on Sunday. They went to the same venue last evening, before walking the new Estadio Nacional pitch for about quarter hour after.

On Monday, Whitmore's tactical session hinted at an orthodox 4-4-2 formation, with captin Donovan Ricketts being guarded by Jermaine Taylor and Adrian Mariappa in central defence, flanked by Demar Phillips and Omar Daley. Marvin Elliot and Rodolph Austin anchored central midfield, with Joel 'Jobi' McAnuff and Garath McCleary on the flanks, as Luton Shelton and Jermaine Beckford patrolled the front line.

However, at yesterday's final session, Lloyd Doyley, the Watford FC defender, was tried at right back in place of Daley, in an apparent move to utilise a more natural defender in that position, instead of the instinctive Daley. This could be the only change from Friday's game.

But there were other concerns from that game — the midfield — and Whitmore believes he has now remedied that situation, at least for the time being.

"After we lost Nosworthy (Nyron) in the game on Friday the midfield wasn't operating the way we wanted, so it was a concern. But we got the message across (for this game), so it is something we are looking to improve on."

There is no doubt that the Costa Ricans have their backs to the wall, and as such, technical director Jorge Luis Pinto, though defensive minded, will have no choice but to attack and go all out for victory, a situation which suits both Whitmore and his captain, Donovan Ricketts.

"We are aware of their (Costa Rica) situation, but we don't want their downfall to reach us, because with the game they played against the USA, there were a lot of complaints, but we are up for it, and I think the Boyz are ready," Whitmore noted.

For Ricketts, he said: "It should be a great game, you know Costa Rica is a good team. They like to play (positive) and that will open up space for us to also play, so it should be a good game.

"We are on the road and you know when you are on the road you try to get a point, and that will be a good result. But if we can steal three points that would be great, so we have to be solid defensively, well co-ordinated and compact," added the veteran goalkeeper from the 1998 Jamaica World Cup Finals squad.

Reports here suggest that the Costa Ricans are incensed with the conditions under which Los Ticos played on Friday, and to show their disgruntlement, they have decided to turn their backs on the FIFA Fair Play flag at the start of the game this evening in front of a capacity 35,000 spectators in the one-year-old facility.

Jamaica assistant head coach Alfredo Montesso has been banned from the sidelines for today's game, having been ejected with seven minutes remaining in Friday's game. His absence from the bench is not expected to severely affect the team, as modern day technology is expected to be used to communicate with Whitmore.

Whitmore promises a possession-based approach, with organisation, while trying to use the flanks to get behind the opposition to get chances at goal. The team has been working on that strategy for the past two days, and though the finishing wasn't always efficient, the wide players were doing their jobs.

Just about 40 supporters journeyed from Jamaica with the team on the chartered flight on Saturday, and Ricketts wants to assure all that the team is well past Friday's subpar effort.

"When you play this game you have to have amnesia — quickly get things out of your mind and you focus for the other game, especially when they come so quick. We know we didn't have the best of games, but we know what we are capable of as well, so we focus on what we can do and what we did wrong and just move on."

 

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