Jamaica face Nigeria in Special Olympics Toyota Unified Football Cup opener

Senior staff reporter

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

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CHICAGO, Illinois — Jamaica's Head Coach Shane Richards stressed the importance of taking all three points when his team squares off against Nigeria in opening-day action of the Special Olympics Toyota Unified Football Cup today.

Match time is 3:30 pm (same as Jamaica time) at the CIBC Fire Pitch facility.

“It's very important to get off to a winning start. In every competition you always want to start on a positive note. Not to take anything away from Nigeria, but I think we are prepared and hungry and we need these three points. They [Nigeria] appear to be a young team, but I'm sure they are coming to do well just as we are, so we are gearing up to go,” he told the Jamaica Observer before afternoon practice yesterday.

After Nigeria, the Jamaicans go up against Japan tomorrow and then Italy the following day.

The Jamaican coaching staff knows little of the Nigerian squad, but encounters during the World Summer Games over the years give Lennox Christie, the director of football for Special Olympics Jamaica (SOJ), an idea of what to expect.

“This [Jamaica] team has experience and we've played in competitions before, and we've seen Nigeria and some of the other teams. And as head coach in previous years I have a knowledge of how they play with strong, fast, skilful players. But we're going in with confidence that we will do well,” he told the Observer.

“We are going into the tournament to make Jamaica proud. With the hard work that the coaches, the players and the [SOJ] executive director [Lorna Bell] have put in we are just going there to do our best. It's going to be a tough tournament, but we are going there with the belief that we can do it,” stressed Christie, Jamaica's head of delegation here.

Richards, who outlined that on-field and off-field tactical sessions were set to be held yesterday, also has thoughts of going all the way.

“It's an invitational competition and, as Jamaicans, we would want to win it. We don't want to go there just to participate in it; we want to compete well and to hopefully carry home this Toyota Cup to Jamaica.

“We worked for some months together as a team, we bonded and we got to know the strengths and weaknesses of each other. It's not just about any single individual; we want the team overall to be giving its best. As a Jamaican it's about 'never say die' and 'never say never',” said the Jamaica head coach.

Probable starting XI — Moran Singh (captain), Shaquon Beckford (goalkeeper), Andrade Hunt, Renaldo Hunter, Shane Sewell, Clive Jarrett, Shawn Beckford, Carey Rowe, Trevaughn Isaacs, Rodrigo Beckford, Damion Gordon.

Rest of squad — Tajae Able, Lance Rutherford, Ricardo Saunders, Allan Gordon, Kemar Jones.

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