GUATEMALA CITY, Guatemala — Guatemala and Jamaica face each other in a most crucial World Cup Qualifying contest here today at the Mateo Flores Stadium at 8:00 pm (9:00 pm Jamaica time).
A sold out crowd of about 23,000 spectators should file into the stadium to support their team in a match where Mexican officials — 38-year-old Roberto Garcia, who officiated at the London Olympics, will be accompanied by Jose Luis Camargo and Alberto Morin on the sidelines, with Francisco Chacon as the fourth official — will do honours.
Guatemala and Jamaica are joint top of the four-team Group A points standing alongside the USA on seven points, but the hosts, with a plus two goal difference, the same as the USA, are ahead of Jamaica, who have a plus-one goal difference.
Antigua and Barbuda, who host the USA today, occupy the cellar position with just one point. They have already been eliminated.
Jamaica will host Antigua and Barbuda next Tuesday in Kingston, while Guatemala visit Kansas City
Qualification play-off next year.
In that round, the top two teams from the three semifinal groups will advance, from which the top three will gain automatic spots in the Brazil 2014 World Cup Finals, and the fourth-placed team engaging the winner of the Oceania region in a two-way tie for another berth to Brazil.
The Jamaican arrived in Guatemala on Monday afternoon and immediately set about laying down the marker for the home team. However, ace midfielder Rodolph Austin was forced to train in isolation, after picking up a left ankle injury sustained last Saturday in the English League Championship match for his club Leeds United against Barnsley.
He engaged in more serious activities on Wednesday evening, kicking the ball and applying some amount of pressure on the leg, and was expected to go through a fitness test last evening.
In his absence, utility player Jermaine Taylor was employed in a midfield role, with Jason Morrison pushed further up the pitch in a more attacking position.
However, after starting with a 4-3-3 formation at practice on Wednesday, with Taylor, Morrison and Je-Vaughn Watson in midfield, the coaching staff switched to a 4-4-2 formation and replaced Watson with Jermaine Hue, and Dane Richards, a wide right winger, with Tramaine Stewart in attacking midfield. Luton Helton and Ryan Johnson remained the formwards.
Assistant coach Alfredo Montesso yesterday confirmed that the team would employ a 4-4-2 formation today, but admitted that they were awaiting a medical decision on Austin before finalising the starting team.
Nonetheless, he was impressed with Hue’s participation in the switch as he said it gave the team more balance.
The back line should see Adrian Mariappa, who sat out Wednesday’s session after hurting his rib area in a collision with goalkeeper Jacomeno Barrett the previous evening. He has since been given a clean bill of health.
Nyron Nosworthy should be the other centre back, with the returning Demar Phillips on the left and Lovell Palmer on the right in front of goalkeeper Dwayne Miller.
The midfield is where the uncertainly lies, as Taylor could partner Morrison in central midfield, with Hue and Austin, Hue and Watson or Hue and Stewart in the attacking midfield role.
As regards Guatemala, they have been spending an inordinate number of minutes concentrating on the defensive play, according to reports here, as the Jamaica Observer was denied access to their tactical training session at their FIFA Goal Project training base yesterday morning.
However, media reports suggest that there could be about six changes to the team that lost 1-2 to Jamaica in Kingston on June 8.
Their possible starting team could be goalkeeper Ricardo Jerez, with Erwin Morales, Jonathan Lopez, Elias Vasques and Ruben Morales in defence, guarded by midfielders Manuel Leon and Jose Contreras, with Carlos Figueroa and the wily Marco Pablo Pappa being the creative playmaker. Captain Carlos Ruiz, who has netted 53 goals for his country, will lead the attack alongside the burly Dwight Pezzarossi.
According to the media, the main doubt surrounds midfield where Wilfred Vasquez could play instead of Contreras if the aim is to go defensive in their 4-4-2 formation.