Sport

Boyz face World Cup-bound Switzerland in friendly match

Schaefer urges Boyz to give of their best in Swiss showdown

IAN BURNETT ON TOUR with the REGGAE BOYZ

Friday, May 30, 2014    

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LUZERN, Switzerland -- Jamaica's head coach Winfried Schaefer is expecting his Reggae Boyz to produce an improved performance when they take the field against Switzerland here at the Swissporarena, Luzern, at 8:30 pm (1:30 pm Jamaica time) today.

The Boyz, who opened their glamour four-match friendly international tour on a losing note (1-2) to FIFA Coca-Cola 31st ranked Serbia in New Jersey on Monday, have been strengthened by the arrival of centre backs Wes Morgan and Adrian Mariappa, as well as left-sided player Demar Phillips. Keithy Simpson has also been added to the squad.

The Boyz started tentatively against Serbia and were two goals down before 25 minutes, but an improved second-half ensured a respectable scoreline, even as goalkeeper Andre Blake was called into action time and again.

Now Schaefer wants them to pick up from where they left off. "It is clear Switzerland will be the favourites, but after the match everybody must say, 'Hey, Jamaica is a good football team, they can play very well'," Schaefer told the Jamaica Observer after the team's final training session at the game venue yesterday.

"Maybe we lose the game, but people must say that we played well. Maybe we win

1-0, but didn't play very good football, that I don't want in a friendly match," he said sternly. "I want coaches at the big clubs to say, 'Ah, I need this player from Jamaica, or that player from Jamaica', so that we can have players going to the big clubs in Europe."

The heat, humidity and dry Red Bull Arena proved too much for a lot of players from both sides on Monday, but the weather forecast for today should be far more favourable to the players, particularly those based in Europe. The game time forecast is cloudy with a chance of rain with temperatures between 12 and 17 degrees Celsius in front of a sold out 16,800 capacity arena.

The Swiss, who will make their 10th appearance at next month FIFA World Cup Finals in Brazil, have managed friendly victories over Brazil and Germany in recent times, as they registered just four defeats in their last 29 internationals.

They emphatically booked their place in Brazil with

an unbeaten qualifying campaign, as West German-born coach Ottmar Hitzfeld, known as 'The General', was able to successfully blend players from their successful Under-17 World Cup side of a few years back, with the more experienced players.

He brought his squad of 30 players together on Monday, and they have managed two training sessions on the opening two days, before scaling back to just one session on Wednesday and one yesterday.

He has confirmed that a few of his players are suffering nagging injuries and will more than likely be kept out of this match, or see very little playing time, with top scorer Tranquillo Barnetta from Eintracht Frankfurt, who has 10 goals from 73 caps, Napoli's Valon Behrami with two goals from 46 caps, Mario Gavranovic from FC Zurich with four goals from

10 appearances, and experienced defender Steve Von Bergen from BSC Young Boys being the main

injury threats.

The Swiss will have their last dress rehearsal next Tuesday at the same venue when they face Peru.

They open their Group E World Cup campaign against Ecuador in Brasilia on June 15, then face France in Salvador five days later, before wrapping up their preliminary phase against Honduras in the jungle city of Manaus on June 25.

Hitzfeld, who will call it quits to an outstanding football career at the end of the World Cup, was an outstanding player in Switzerland and Germany, before proving equally successful from the sidelines.

Outside of claiming numerous league titles in Switzerland and Germany, Hitzfeld became only the second coach in the

history of the European Cup/Champions League, after Ernst Happel, to win the competition with two different teams --Dortmund in 1997 and Bayern Munich in 2001.

The shrewd German has a reputation as a defensive coach, but one who is able to get the best out of his players by instilling a strong team work ethic, and discipline on and off the pitch.

Schaefer is wary of his compatriot and his ability to succeed, having competed against him in the Bundesliga for many years. "They are number eight in the world and for the coach this match is very important because he has a few players with minor injuries, but those coming in will want to show him that they belong. It will be a full stadium, so it is going to be a strong test for us.

"I have known this coach for 40 years and at a press conference this morning (yesterday) I saw where they had our team which played against Serbia on Monday on a board and all the players' names were correct, but they had us playing 4-4-2, so I said, 'Ottmar, your scout was not very good because we played 3-5-2,' and he said, 'Please, please Honduras and Ecuador play this system and I want to test my team against it'."

But Schaefer said that he will employ a 4-3-3 formation today based on the players at his disposal. "It is not a friendly match, that is clear," he said.

Schaefer said based on his research, Switzerland tend to have problems on corners and free kicks, so he practised set pieces at training yesterday with specific instructions to some players in order to give them that big chance to make a goal from these situations.

Andre Blake tended goal in his first team yesterday, with Morgan and Mariappa predictably at centre back, with Lloyd Doyley at right back and Kemar Lawrence at left back. Captain Rodolph Austin anchored a three-man midfield, flanked higher up the pitch by Demar Phillips -- who impressed with his tireless running in attack and defence in training yesterday -- on the left, and Joel Grant on the right.

Eighteen-year-old Michael Seaton, who capped a fine second international goal against Serbia, was rewarded with a starting place alongside Darren Mattocks on the left and Simon Dawkins on the right.

Schaefer noted that changes will be made as other players will be given the opportunity to showcase their talent at some stage of the game, regardless of the

match situation.

The rest of the 21-man squad is Dwayne Miller, Jacomeno Barrett, Upstan Edwards, Christopher Humphrey, John-Ross Edwards, Nicholy Finlayson, Romario Campbell, Nicholas Beckett, Hughan Gray and Keithy Simpson.

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