Stern test! – Reggae Boyz cautiously optimistic ahead of Peru match-up

September 7th, 2010

Jamaica's Demar Phillips (right) and Ricardo Blanco of Costa Rica challenge for possession f the ball during Sunday night's friendly international at the National Stadium. (Photo: Bryan Cummings)

FORT LAUDERDALE, Florida — When the Reggae Boyz take the field this evening against South American outfit Peru at Lockhart Stadium here, their approach will be one of caution and confidence.

Caution, claims head coach Theodore ‘Tappa’ Whitmore, is inspired by the fact that Peru — ranked 39th by FIFA — are a little known opponent of the Boyz as both teams have met only once in a friendly international at the National Stadium in 2006, which ended 1-1.

In explaining the confidence, Whitmore said that after coming off back-to-back wins in practice matches against Trinidad and Tobago (3-1) in Port of Spain in August and then Costa Rica (1-0) at home on Sunday night, there has been a noticeable swagger in the camp.

“Our approach for this has to be one of caution… and for the first 10 or 15 minutes it’s very important that we do so.

“Our confidence should be high as we have gone two games with wins, but now we have a third game and that is our main focus… but we still don’t want to be over-confident, but what is certain is that it will be a very interesting encounter come tomorrow night (tonight),” said Whitmore, arguably one of Jamaica’s most influential players after his unmatched exploits at the 1998 World Cup Finals in France where he notched a brace in a 2-1 win over Japan.

He did not name a starting 11 for this evening’s game, which is scheduled for a 8:00 pm (7:00 pm local time) kick-off.

Whitmore, a midfield magician in his day, opted for a decision after a late training session scheduled for the match venue.

“We have to leave the selection of the final 11 until our training session this evening (last evening) because we just played a game, so we have to see what condition the players are in and then take a decision,” he said.

Unless there are injuries and other unforseen factors, it would be highly expected that Dwayne Miller of Syrianka FC of Sweden will start in goal. It would be a surprise, all things being equal, if the likes of skipper Jermaine Taylor (St Georges SC), Shavar Thomas (Kansas City Wizards), Dane Richards (New York Red Bulls), Demar Phillips (Aalesund FC), Sunday’s goalscorer Ryan Johnson (San Jose Earthquakes), Omar Cummings (Colorado Rapids) and Luton Shelton (Valarenga) wouldn’t have a thing or two to say in the final team ahead of the first whistle.

And with a new air of commitment said to be sweeping the group, there is no doubt that others will be out to prove to the coach that they are worthy to heed the referee’s first whistle.

Cummings, who hit a brace for his club over the weekend, and Thomas both joined the squad at the team’s hotel yesterday to complete Whitmore’s 20-man group.

But Whitmore goes into tonight’s encounter with a lingering concern. He still believes that the team requires, as a matter of urgency, a “leader on the field”.

“A major concern of mine is that the national team lacks leadership on the field, there is nobody out there to really lead the team,” he lamented.

The young but maturing coach says that these friendly games form part of his programme to fine-tune the team for crucial upcoming tournaments like the Digicel Caribbean Cup, the CONCACAF Gold Cup and the Brazil 2014 World Cup Finals qualifying campaign.

“We are getting there, though I am not a hundred per cent satisfied… these games we are using as our measuring stick to know where we are, and by the time 2012 comes around we will know exactly where we want to be.”

He added that it will be a continuing process of trying out new players as he looks to develop a pool from which ultimately he will select his team for the major championships, chief of which is the Brazil 2014 campaign.

“For now we are looking at some unkowns and trying really to give everybody a chance,” Whitmore stated.

Meanwhile, the Peruvians — with their tails in the air following a solid 2-0 win over 101st-ranked Canada on Saturday in Toronto — will be banking on a number of their European-based talent to uproot Jamaica with a modest FIFA ranking of 82nd.

Fiorentina’s Juan Manuel Vargas, FC Schalke’s Jefferson Farfan and Werder Bremen’s Claudio Pizarro are their most celebrated players.

Jamaica’s squad — Dwayne Miller, Adrian Blake, Dicoy Williams, Jermaine Taylor, Shavar Thomas, Adrian Reid, Lovel Palmer, Jason Morrison, Omar Daley, Eric Vernan, Richard Edwards, Navion Boyd, Keammar Daley, Demar Phillips, Nicholas Addlery, Dane Richards, Ryan Johnson, Omar Cummings, Luton Shelton, Kavin Bryan.

Peru’s squad — Raul Fernandez, Solomon Libman, Santiago Acasiete, John Galliquio, Robert Guizasola, Jesus Rabanal, Alberto Junior Rodriguez, Walter Vilchez, Carlos Zambranao, Josepmir Ballon, Antonio Gonzales, Reimond Manco, Luis Ramirez, Rainer Torres, Jean Tragodara, Juan Manuel Vargas, Luiz Advincula, Wilmer Aguirre, Jefferson Farfan, Jose Carlos Ferbandez, Claudio Pizaarro, Herman Rengifo.


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