Sport

Weakened Boyz face tricky Serbia in friendly

BY IAN BURNETT Sport Editor

Monday, May 26, 2014    

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NEWARK, New Jersey — Jamaica's Reggae Boyz will be hoping for a memorable debut performance against Serbia as they begin a series of four glamour friendly internationals at the Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey, today.

Game time is 4:00 pm (3:00 pm Jamaica time).

On a day when the United States of America celebrates Memorial Day, Serbia, ranked 30th, and Jamaica, ranked 81st on the latest FIFA Coca-Cola list, face each other for the first time.

An individual close to the organisation of the game yesterday said they were "hopeful" of a good turnout, what with the large Jamaican Diaspora in the Tri-state area, as well as that of the Serbians. He added that the game has been well-promoted in the Jamaican communities, and with ticket prices ranging from $30 to $50, on a holiday, he was hopeful that spectators would turn out on the day.

If they do, then they could be in for a treat, as the Europeans possess real football pedigree, boasting the likes of the Chelsea pair of defender Branislav Ivanovic, and anchor midfielder Nemanja Matic, as well as Manchester City's Aleksandar Kolorav, and Benfica's Stefan Mitrovic.The Udinese pair of Zeljko Brkic and Dusan Basta, as well as Olympique Lyonnaise's Milan Bisevac, Fiorentina's Nenad Tomovic, Roma's Adem Ljajic, Borussia Dortmund's Milos Jojic, FC Twente's Dusan Tadic, and Nantes' Filip Dordevic are also players capable of making the difference.

Serbia, a breakaway from the former Yugoslavia, became official in 2006, after breaking away from Serbia and Montenegro.From their days as Yugoslavia they have been to 11 World Cup Finals, the first being in 1930, and they have had a best result of fourth place in 1930 and 1962. They have participated in five European Championships, starting in 1960, and being runners-up in 1960 and 1968. They have also won silver medals at the Olympics in 1948, 1952 and 1956.

Jamaica's German coach Winfried Schäfer is well aware of the challenge that his charges face today, and especially because his preferred squad is unavailable.

"They have tradition and some of the best players who play in Europe, and our team come together today (yesterday), and we will have only one day training with the players for tomorrow," he told the media prior to yesterday's training session at the New York Red Bulls Training Facility.

"Our problem is with the defence, because we have two local players in the defence and they were not very good in the last two matches (against Trinidad and Tobago) last year," Schäfer added.

The coach said he spoke to the players about the best system to employ for this match and they came up with a 3-5-2 because they need the middle of the pitch to be "very compact, because Serbia play with many one-touch passes and we have to close this area and force them on the wings", which would give the Boyz a better chance.

At training yesterday, Schäfer rehearsed with Andre Blake in goal, guarded by Nicholy Finlayson, Lloyd Doyley, and Upston Edwards in defence, marshalled by captain Rodolph Austin, John-Ross Edwards, Joel Grant, Kemar Lawrence (left) and Christopher Humphrey (right) in midfield, with Simon Dawkins and Darren Mattocks up top.

Later in the session, he introduced Hughan Gray for Humphrey, as well as Nicholas Beckett and Romario Campbell in the centre of the park.

"I hope our players are ready for this match because it is a big chance for them to be scouted for a better contract. I hope they prepare their bodies, their minds, for good performance.

"My hope after the four matches is that people will say, 'hey, Jamaica is a good team, Jamaica play good football'. The Reggae Boyz is a good brand, well-known, not just in the US, but in Europe, also, and we have to build a very good team for the Caribbean Cup, Gold Cup and Copa America, and for the future," said the German.

Schäfer said he was also concerned about the fitness of a number of players, though he had sent letters to all overseas-based players for them to train one week before this match against Serbia, while for the local-based players who just finished the Red Stripe Premier League, he said he asked them to rest before returning to training a few days before the match.

Meanwhile, the full complement of players has now joined the squad with Simon Dawkins and Deshorn Brown being the last to join up yesterday.

Jamaica, on this tour, will also face Switzerland on May 30 in Lucern, Egypt in London on June 4 and World Cup winner France in Lille four days later.

Squad: Upston Edwards, Kemar Lawrence, Nicholas Beckett, Romario Campbell, Hughan Gray, Nicholy Finlayson, Jacomeno Barrett, Rodolph Austin, John-Ross Edwards, Michael Seaton, Deshorn Brown, Darren Mattocks, Dwayne Miller, Andre Blake, Joel Grant, Simon Dawkins, Christopher Humphrey, Lloyd Doyley.

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