Jamaica's Reggae Boyz face Peru in a friendly international in Lima this evening with an open challenge from newly elevated Head Coach Paul Hall.
The match is scheduled for Estadio Nacional de Lima at 8:00 pm.
Hall, the former Reggae Boyz striker who recently succeeded his sacked France '98 teammate Theodore Whitmore, has urged local-based players to grab the opportunity with both hands.
“We want players to show that they should be in the squad next week for the World Cup qualifier…it's an opportunity for those players to show me, my team and Jamaica who should be in that group of players and see if we can win games against Mexico, Panama and Costa Rica.
“This is really a good opportunity for those players to knock on the door and say 'I am better than him', and that is why the final squad hasn't been picked because I am looking for something to come from this game to see who really wants it,” Hall said from Lima on Wednesday.
Hall, who was assistant to Whitmore before the latter's axing, says, based how the team trained during a one-week camp back in Jamaica, he expects a fighting spirit and a manifestation of how he wants the team to play.
“We can expect the team to exhibit resilience because we are going to be away from home, and we are going to need people to step up in a foreign environment.
“The new players have taken to the way we play…again there was an openness to receive the information. I have kind of encouraged a learning environment, so you can tell that learning has taken place within the training sessions, plus we want the players to be able to think for themselves and to really take the sessions to a different level,” said Hall.
“Training has been quite intense, and we want the players to play more, relax more, to pass the ball more and express themselves a little bit more as well. So, while they have taken to the way we play, we will see how much they have [grasped] when the game comes,” he added.
This evening's game against the 22nd-ranked Peru will be Jamaica's only practice match before the upcoming cycle of the Concacaf World Cup Qualification Octagonal.
Next Thursday, the Boyz will host Mexico at the National Stadium before facing Panama away on January 30. On February 2, the Jamaicans are back at The Office for a showdown with Costa Rica.
As it stands, Jamaica sit precariously in sixth position in the eight-nation qualifiers on a measly seven points. The statistics are far from flattering with only one win, four draws and three defeats.
Canada lead a close four-horse race with 16 points, followed by the USA on 15, Mexico, 14 and Panama, 14. Costa Rica are fifth on nine points, while El Salvador with six and Honduras three trail Jamaica.
The Boyz, ranked 57th, have their backs against the wall and a Qatar World Cup dream fading fast, but hopes are high that a team without its top stars could put on a good show in Lima and trigger a well-needed wave of optimism going into the qualifiers.
But Peru, currently fifth in South American World Cup qualifiers, will be no pushovers and will care little for Jamaica's predicament as they sharpen for forthcoming matches.
“I have watched a few of Peru's games and they are a tough opponent and there is no doubt about that…they move the ball well and they pressure the ball well.
“They played Panama recently (on Monday) and they played quite well, and so they are a very good team, and they are at home.
“When they attack, they do so quickly, they can counter-attack effectively, and they can defend astutely as well, so we have to be about our game to make sure we can break them down and to focus on ourselves as well,” noted Hall.
The game between Peru and Panama ended 1-1, also at the Estadio Nacional de Lima.
The Jamaica tactician deemed the training camp at the UWI-JFF Captain Horace Burrell Centre of Excellence a success.
“Things have been good since I arrived and I have the liberty to train some good players and have the opportunity to get to know some of the Jamaica-based players, and obviously some of the players I already know.
“But they have all shown an extreme willingness to listen and to learn and apply what we are trying to play, and it has been very good. The players have shown a good attitude and the application has been very good again, so it has been an enjoyable week,” Hall stated.
Jamaica and Peru have met four times in international friendlies, where the Boyz have yet to get the better of the South Americans.
In those contests, the Boyz have lost three, while drawing one. They last met in 2017 in Peru where the hosts won 3-1.
Before departing Jamaica via Panama and Miami on Monday, two players and one staffer were said to have tested positive for COVID-19.
Jamaica squad: Jeadine White, Demar Rose, Amal Knight, Dwayne Miller, Oquassa Chong, Richard King, Jamoi Topey, Damion Lowe, Javain Brown, Je-Vaughn Watson, Kemar Lawrence, Tevin Shaw, Ramone Howell, Devon Williams, Devonte Campbell, Lamar Walker, Jourdain Fletcher, Peter Vassell, Dwayne Atkinson, Deshane Beckford, Maliek Howell, Alex Marshall, Ricardo Thomas.
— Sean Williams