The Invitees: Jamaica
A Copa América 2015 Profile by Jaleel Tapper-Gray
“…it was admirable. I don’t think I’d ever seen so much heart.”
As with every iteration of the Copa América since 1993, two nations from other footballing confederations will be taking part in the tournament as invitees. In 2015 Jamaica will make their debut in the tournament, going in as Caribbean Cup champions on a run of five straight victories.
Needless to say the level competition they will face in South America will be on a different planet to that they faced in the Caribbean. Their group of Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay does not make happy viewing for the Jamaicans, but a recent victory over Venezuela might give them belief that they can at least garner a point before being plunged out of the tournament.
Winfried Schäfer may not be a household name, and that’s because the majority of his managing career has been spent in what most readers would probably consider ‘far away lands’, including Azerbaijan, UAE, Cameroon, Thailand and now Jamaica. On his travels he’s won the African Cup of Nations, the UAE national championship and most recently, the Caribbean Cup.
Schäfer has brought experience and a new way of working to the team from the Caribbean, who (in a region-wide epidemic) have been accused of playing with too much heart and not enough head.
The Reggea Boyz have a mix of experience of youth, with the bulk of their squad playing in either England or the United States.
If Schäfer so chooses, he has the ability to play the Premier League centre back partnership of Wes Morgan and Adrian Mariappa, though young Alvas Powell of Portland Timbers is often preferred. Kemar Lawrence of New York Red Bulls is a bright spark, an attacking minded full back who will be looking to impress on a huge stage.
Jamaica’s midfield holds plenty of experience, with Rodolph Austin, Jobi McAnuff and Dane Richards who are 29, 33 and 31 years of age respectively. Problematically, they have few younger options and despite an incredible work ethic, against the pace and energy of some of the South American teams, a lack of energy in the closing stages of games could be a real issue.
In attack they’ll be relying on their leading goalscorer Darren Mattocks of Vancouver Whitecaps, and preferred options over Giles Barnes could include Simon Dawkins of Derby County or Deshorn Brown, who has two goals in his nine international games.
For the Jamaican team, playing against the pace and most significantly the quality of Argentina and Lionel Messi, will probably be unlike anything most of the squad has ever faced. They lack youth and potentially energy in midfield, and however Winfried Schäfer has prepared them they won’t be organised enough to combat that kind of attacking talent.
Jamaica technically sit ahead of Paraguay in the FIFA World Rankings, who they play on the 16th of June. It will be in that game that the jury will be out on Jamaica, and as a nation that has a serious plan to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, they will have to show their potential.