Sports

Jamaica's Spartan Elite get tough draw in Red Bull Neymar Jr's Five World Final

Friday, July 12, 2019

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SAO PAULO, Brazil —Spartan Elite, Jamaica's representatives here at the 2019 Red Bull Neymar Jr's Five World Final, were yesterday placed in a tough group during the official draw held on the beach at the Sofitel Guaruja Jequitimar Hotel.

The Spanish Town-based, seven-member team which won the Jamaican Championship on June 16 in Half-Way-Tree, was drawn third in Group D alongside teams from Belgium, Portugal and Australia.

However, team captain Rohan Thompson believes his side has no fear of the opposition in the group.

“Based on the names in the group those countries are known for playing football. Even though it's not the national team and we are not playing the country by the name, we are opposing players from those countries,” he explained to the Jamaica Observer at the completion of the draw.

He added: “I think we can match up and we have been training, so any team at all, even if we were placed in a group with Brazil, with the Neymar Global Five, I think we would still come out on top because of the level of football that we are playing.”

A total of 42 countries from across six continents will be taking part in the fourth edition of the Red Bull Neymar Jr's Five World Final at Instituto Projeto Neymar Jr located in Praia Grande.

It is a non-profit association dedicated to social causes and offers extra-curricular educational and sporting activities to more than 2,000 socially disadvantaged children between the ages of seven and 14 years, and their families.

The Instituto uses a teaching methodology based on sports and was founded in 2014 by Neymar Jr and his family in Jardim Gloria, Praia Grande, where the player spent most of his childhood.

Though there are teams from 42 countries, a Neymar Global Five team has been added to the mix. There are 10 groups, with the first three having five teams each, and the remainder having four teams. Up to press time yesterday, all teams except Nigeria had arrived at Sofitel hotel.

There were also 10 women's teams drawn in two groups.

For the first time at yesterday's draw, the captains of each team were asked to spin a wheel to select the group in which their team would be placed.

All 10 group winners will gain automatic qualification to the first knockout round, with the 10 runners-up plus the two best third-placed teams placed in a “lucky loser” pot where the top six will join the group winners in the first knockout round.

Competition starts today and concludes tomorrow at the Instituto, some 45 minutes away from the Sofitel Hotel, and whichever team comes out as world champions in this, the biggest five-a-side football championship in the world, will travel to Europe to meet Neymar Jr and join him up close during his routine. The star player is expected to attend tomorrow's final day of the World Final.

Thompson told the Observer that the players have recovered very well since arriving here early Wednesday morning from Jamaica.

“It [flight] was good, though long and tedious. A lot of the time we had to think deep to endure the hours with slight headaches, but it's worth it,” he said of the group, each of whom was visiting the football-crazy land of Brazil for the first time.

Thompson added: “They have rehydrated themselves and taking their vitamins and even in our first practice session on the beach [on Wednesday] I could see agility coming out and strength, and basically they are ready.”

Spartan Elite, who will face Belgium's Miramas, Portugal's Para A Cueca, and Australia's Links FC, emerged national champions and earned the all-expenses-paid trip to Brazil when they defeated Pump House in sudden death extra-time in the final at Half-Way-Tree on June 16.

They had earlier won the Falmouth leg of the qualifiers on May 18 after routing Falmouth United 3-0 in the final at Elletson Wakeland Centre, with FLOW Most Valuable Player Akeem Gibbons starring with two goals.

Gibbons, who plays for Frazier's Whip in the St Catherine Super League, was their top scorer with nine goals, and they earned their berth in the third attempt after losing at two previous locations.

Thompson noted that the team has conducted training sessions at Football Factor since winning the local crown, and though they have been friends for many years, they have used the opportunity to bond even more as they take aim at this goal.

“We have had a night out on the beach to relax, last Sunday, and we did some training at Football Factory to sharpen up on our skills and our playing technique because we don't want to go in the game just to kick the ball around. We want to kick the ball around with a pattern, a systematic pattern of play,” he offered.

And so far, so good, especially with the food.

“So far we are comfortable and the food is good. I had doubts coming into Brazil, but once we got here and saw the food, we are okay with it.”

He's also pleased with the manner in which the players are adjusting to their environs, especially with so many potential distractions.

“They are concentrating well. We actually used a part of the first day as free time for them to fraternise and socialise with people, but since the draw today (yesterday) we have decided that it's now serious work time, football focus time now, so almost every conversation, everything we do now is all about the game,” he ended.

Spartan Elite squad : Rohan Thompson, Akeem Gibbons, Byron Sweeney, Johnny Hanson, Tayane Douglas, and twin brothers Romio and Romario Brown.

Group A – Romania, Tunisia, Georgia, Panama, England

Group B – Ukraine, Canada, Qatar, Italy, Turkey

Group C – Luxembourg, Hungary, India, Angola, Spain

Group D – Belgium, Portugal, Jamaica, Australia

Group E – France, Trinidad and Tobago, Slovakia, Poland

Group F – Kenya, Neymar Jr's Global Five, Brazil, Nigeria

Group G – Oman, USA, Hong Kong, Namibia

Group H – UAE, Algeria, Mexico, Kuwait

Group I – Kazakhstan, Japan, Mauritius, Jordan

Group J – Chile, Egypt, Pakistan, Cyprus

Women's Teams

Group A – USA, Canada, France, Tunisia, Chile

Group B – Japan, Slovakia, Brazil, England, Italy

— Ian Burnett


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