Hallgrimsson vows tactical savvy in Nations League semis against giants Mexico
New invitee Jonathan Russell dribbles the ball while teammate Corey Burke watches from a distance during a Reggae Boyz training session at Montego Bay Sports Complex on Friday. (Photo: Paul Reid)

Reggae Boyz Head Coach Heimir Hallgrimsson says he expects tactical improvement from his charges when they take on Mexico in Group A of League A semi-finals of the Concacaf Nations League at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City today.

The match starts at 6:00 pm (7:00 pm Jamaica time).

The Jamaicans were less than impressive in a two-match friendly series against Caribbean neigbours Trinidad and Tobago just under two weeks ago, but Hallgrimsson said they had worked on specific plans for this game, noting that if they execute those plans they could "hurt" the Mexicans.

Speaking to the Jamaica Observer just before Friday's final training session at the Montego Bay Sports Complex after their five-day camp before leaving for Mexico, Hallgrimsson said they players and the coaching staff are confident.

Reggae Boyz midfielder Ravel Morrison (left) passes the ball while Jonathan Russell (right) reacts during a training session at the Montegp Bay Sports Complex on Friday. Amari'i Bell watches the play.Photo: Paul Reid

Jamaica must beat Mexico at the Azteca for the first time if they are to qualify for the final set to be played in June in Las Vegas as Mexico are two points ahead at the top of the group after a 2-0 win over Suriname on Thursday night in Diego Cocca's debut as Mexico's head hoach.

Hallgrimsson said, "You will see a different approach to this game, the ones against Trinidad were more to see the players' abilities, how they they work within our system, in our working environment. So this time we would like to be more tactical, we would like to be more clinical," he said.

"We have been practising for Mexico, so that is totally different. This camp has been for Mexico and the Gold Cup so we are preparing, but most of all for Mexico," the Icelander added.

Hallgrimsson said that, come today, the Boyz will present a more organised and disciplined front.

"Hopefully, we will see a much more structured team because when we played Trinidad it was not about Trinidad, it was about us, you know, and who can be with us in the future and seeing a lot of young players," he noted.

The former Iceland coach said his technical staff had tried to cover as much of the tactical work in Montego Bay as they did not want to give away anything once they got on Mexican soil. "I think we've managed to cover what we wanted to cover, which was just finishing a few tactical things today [Friday], which we thought we need a little bit more time on because we don't want to do anything tactical once we are in Mexico," he said.

"Probably there will be eyes on us [there], so we like to finish all the technical things, and we've had quite a good time here, enough time in MoBay, and yeah, I'm quite happy with how we've done things."

Asked about their confidence taking on Mexico in their own backyard, Hallgrimsson, who will be leading the Boyz in their first meaningful competition after a number of friendlies, said, "I am always optimistic. We have a plan, we have a plan how we think we can hurt them. 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.

"Hopefully, we can have a good performance, and if we do, then this side effect will be one point or three points."

The coach reported that all the players were raring to go, saying, "Everyone here is fine and fit and ready and want to play."

"So we have, we have 23 players really eager to play against Mexico and we love that, and the good thing about this camp is that we didn't play a friendly in-between so there was no need to rest anyone today [Friday], so we are just preparing for Mexico and we have given players time to recover from the matches before they came, so we are in a good position fitness-wise and hopefully tactical-wise," Hallgrimsson added.

He said there was very little to take from Thursday's game between Suriname and Mexico that they might use on Sunday. "I think we cannot take a lot from that match, they will probably play a totally different team against us [as] they have rested a lot of their key players which we expect to be playing against us. And tactically, there was not much that we could take out of that match than what we have already talked about," he ended.

Squad: Amari'i Bell, Jamal Lowe, Ethan Pinnock, Jonathan Russell, Bobby Reid, Demario Phillips, Dexter Lembiksia, Adrian Mariappa, Kevon Lambert, Jahmali Waite, Corey Burke, Damion Lowe, Daniel Johnson, Ravel Morrison, Kaheem Parris, Richard King, Shamar Nicholson, Trivante Stewart, Coniah Boyce-Clarke, Amal Knight, Javian Brown, Kemar Lawrence, Leon Bailey.

BY PAUL A REID Observer writer reidp@jamaicaobserver.com

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