Reggae Boyz ring in the changes with their magnificent seven
Jamaica will be aiming to bounce back from their embarrassing back-to-back defeats, having shipped 11 goals, when they tackle Asian champions Japan in Niigata on Friday.
Winfried Schafer, the Jamaica head coach, has the visit to Niigata for the Kirin Challenge Cup friendly match against hosts Japan to fine tune his squad before picking the best players for November’s Caribbean Cup in Montego Bay.
German Schafer is the current villain amongst diehard Reggae Boyz fans and his latest squad won’t have helped with the popular Waterhouse striker Jermaine ‘Tuffy’ Anderson overlooked.
But Schafer has to stop the rot and to halt the decline, following June’s shocking 8-0 demolition job by hosts France and last month’s incredible 3-1 reversal at the hands of Canada in Toronto, then changes in personnel are vital.
With just two meaningless wins in 13 games at the helm, seeing off St Lucia and Barbados in March’s friendlies, so Japan’s encounter is the opportunity to kick off a new era and there are seven magnificent players called in to help his cause.
Japan are using Friday’s friendly at the Denka Big Swan in Niigata as a warm-up for their prestigious contest in Singapore against Brazil four days later, so the Boyz need to take advantage of the Samurai Blues’ lack of focus.
Although Schafer is under the microscope to start winning, Japan’s recently installed Mexican coach Javier Aguirre has yet to register victory in his two home games last month – beaten 2-0 by Uruguay and held 2-2 by Venezuela.
Aguirre, who led Mexico to the last 16 of the both the 2002 and 2010 World Cup Finals, is aware that Japan’s marking at set-pieces still leaves much to be desired.
He explained ahead of the clash against Jamaica: “There are many areas we need to improve, but clearly we need to work on our concentration in defence.”
But the Boyz have been goal-shy for some time and Schafer may upset many with Anderson not included in his latest squad of 18, but he brings in four exciting midfielders – Cardel Benbow, Joel Grant, Hughan Gray and Dane Richards.
Benbow is a whizzy and fearless 5’4” creative 19-year-old who was part of the Jamaica squad at the Under-17 World Cup and plays for Waterhouse in Jamaica. His team-mate Gray last played for the Boyz in France’s debacle as did Yeovil’s Gray.
Richards is a Jamaica stalwart boasting 42 caps, having debuted with the Boyz in 2002 aged 18. The winger plies his trade in Norway with FK Bodo/Glimt and has played in the MLS for the New York Bulls and Vancouver Whitecaps before making one appearance for Burnley and being loaned to FK Bodo/Glimt before signing a permanent contract.
Strikers Anderson and Derby County’s Simon Dawkins, who has just four caps, are overlooked.
And three midfielders are also dropped with Waterhouse’s Kenardo Forbes, US-based Omar Holness — who made a lacklustre debut against Canada — and Jamaica-based Harbour View midfielder Evan Taylor left on the sidelines.
But it is goals conceded that have recently raised eyebrows amongst fans. Schafer has opted for shotstopper Dwayne Miller, who has 34 caps but not represented Jamaica since 2010. Currently without a club, last term he played for Syrianska in Sweden’s top flight. Miller comes in for Philadelphia Union goalkeeper Andre Blake, who has made just four international appearances.
And two reliable defenders are recalled, Crystal Palace’s Adrian Mariappa is back from injury after missing the Toronto trip with Houston Dynamo’s Jermaine Taylor a regular face for the Boyz since 2004 with 72 caps.
Unfortunately for the Boyz talented right back Keithy Simpson, who made an impressive debut against Switzerland as a second-half substitute in Lucerne this year, is again unable to travel with the team due to club commitments with Finland outfit Vaasan Palloseura. He was called up this year to play against Egypt, France and Canada.
Whether the new vision by Schafer will bring in the long overdue display constantly promised remains to be seen, but after Japan it is onto home soil with the Caribbean Cup where failure will be punished as the Jamaica Football Federation will be forced to reconsider Schafer’s position.
Hopefully the trip to Japan will kick start the Boyz and galvanise the squad with glory days in Montego to follow in November, but realistically it is all looking very glum for any fan of the Boyz at the moment as the slide down the FIFA world rankings continues.
Jamaica squad: Cardel Benbow, Deshorn Brown, Upston Edwards, Nicholy Finlayson, Joel Grant, Hughan Gray, Jamar Loza, Kemar Lawrence, Adrian Mariappa, Darren Mattocks, Dwayne Miller, Wes Morgan, Nyron Nosworthy, Alvas Powell, Dane Richards, Jermaine Taylor, Ryan Thompson and Je-Vaughn Watson
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