Theodore Whitmore’s 100th match at the helm is a tough ask as he sends his depleted troops into a second battle against hosts Saudi Arabia today (17 November, 11.30am ko Jamaican time).
The Montego Bay-born head coach tackles Saudi Arabia at the same imposing Prince Faisal bin Fahd stadium in Riyad, having suffered a 3-0 thumping last weekend that halted Jamaica’s unbeaten run of seven games.
His Reggae Boyz, who put on a poor performance, were ill prepared and looked dishevelled. Although it was hardly surprising considering the obstacles that the contingent experienced, which included cancelled and delays flights, a strike threat and positive COVID-19 test results ripping through their squad.
Whitmore, who has 51 victories from his 99 matches, will need to ensure a serious upgrade from their last shambolic display. He is likely to be missing keeper Amal Knight, who has been feeling unwell, and two unnamed players that are currently ineligible after producing positive test results for COVID-19.
A member of the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) technical staff and an administrator have also been isolated due to positive COVID-19 results. With JFF general secretary Dalton Wint testing positive for coronavirus. Those in self isolation will serve a 10-day quarantine period before they are retested.
Whitmore needs drastic changes if he is to celebrate his century of games at the helm with a victory. It is believed that his shake-up will involve a 4-2-3-1 attacking formation as the Boyz failed to send a shot on target in their last match against the hosts.
His revised line up is expected to see Dwayne Miller remain between the sticks. Veteran Kemar Lawrence replaced at left back by newcomer Gregory Leigh, Michael Hector to partner captain Damion Lowe in at central defence and Oneil Fisher at right back.
Daniel Johnson and Ravel Morrison, who is nursing a right ankle injury, should be at the base of the midfield behind the attacking trio of Leon Bailey, Norman Campbell and Bobby Reid to leave Javon East as the lone striker.
But Whitmore’s headaches will worsen if the Saudi Arabian side continue to thrive and his troops lack firepower once more.
This whistlestop tour of Asia was meant to improve the Boyz FIFA world ranking from no.48 as well as getting the players to start gelling as a unit. At the moment neither of these targets have been achieved, and the double-header friendlies have proved a disaster.
Circumstances have been unkind on Whitmore, but unless the Boyz elevate themselves for battle then there will be questions raised about Whitmore’s tenure to tackle the 2022 World Cup qualifiers.
If Whitmore is to ever surpass René Simões’ record of 127 games as head coach, he will have to up his game today and make massive strides in the near future, because their last hodge-podge of a performance was unacceptable. He may have reached 100 not out but another hefty defeat and Whitmore could be on a sticky wicket.
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