A plan for tough Mexico in the Azteca
National senior men's football team Head Coach Heimir Hallgrímsson (right) goes through drills with local players during a training camp at the UWI-JFF Captain Horace Burrell Centre of Excellence recently. (Photo: Observer file)

No one should be faulted for thinking long-time Concacaf kingpins Mexico and Jamaica are poles apart in international football.

After all, Mexico are ranked a respectable 15th by global football's governing body FIFA. Jamaica's Reggae Boyz are at 64 in those rankings.

The head-to-head record for the two teams surely reflects that difference as they face each other in the Concacaf Nations League at the famed Azteca in Mexico City on Sunday.

We are told that, in 28 meetings between the two countries, there have been 21 wins for Mexico, three for Jamaica, and four draws.

Just to heighten the degree of difficulty for the Jamaicans, they have never beaten their hosts in that country.

Yet, in sport, there is always a chance. As the old saying goes: The ball is round.

We believe the Reggae Boyz will benefit from the knowledge that public expectations are moderate at best.

It should help also that the Jamaicans know that, in order to reach the final of the competition scheduled for Las Vegas in June, they must win on Sunday.

Influential Reggae Boyz defender Mr Damion Lowe leaves us in no doubt that he believes Jamaica can win, at long last, in high-altitude Mexico City.

Says he: "To be honest, since I've been playing for Jamaica, I think Mexico have only beaten us twice, and I have played against them probably five or six times. To be honest, I don't think we're fearful … Our football has grown …"

Mr Lowe believes that while the Jamaicans are "transitioning" there are experienced players that will provide an advantage against a Mexico team that is also transitioning and is far less experienced than previously.

"[A] lot of the older guys have stepped down and … the younger guys are coming and they're not as experienced in Concacaf as we are…" says Mr Lowe.

He makes a very valid point that, in the last World Cup campaign, the Reggae Boyz gave the Mexicans a tough time in their backyard. "[A] lot of overseas-based players weren't available, but the local guys came in and they did really well… that game we [lost] 2-1, but I think … that game showed that we can really do some damage."

What of Jamaica's Head Coach Mr Heimer Hallgrimsson? As former coach of Iceland, the smallest nation ever to reach a senior men's FIFA World Cup finals tournament, he certainly should know a thing or two about planning.

And we note his reference to exactly that. "We have a plan," said he before departure for Mexico, "we have a plan how we think we can hurt them [Mexico]. If that plan works or not, we will just have to see, but we will go into the game with a plan in mind, how we want to play them."

Tough defence and fast counter-attacks highlighted Iceland's success under the guidance of Mr Hallgrimsson.

Perhaps Mr Lowe gave a hint of what to expect when he spoke of Jamaica's need to utilise inherent strengths, not least speed and physicality.

Let's see.

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