“There is always hope.... Hope never dies,” exclaimed new Head Coach of the Jamaica National Senior Men’s team (The Reggae Boyz) Winfried Schafer, when he was interviewed by the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) Beacon at the Headquarters of the Jamaica Football Federation.
Given the present position of the Reggae Boyz, Mr. Schafer says a number of critical considerations will be applied to team selection for the remaining qualifiers, as it is still practical to hope that the Boyz will qualify for World Cup 2014.
“Continuous evaluation of the players will be done by viewing the matches played in the qualifiers, and not their club matches. A decision will be made on the best system and the players that will be used. Players will have to first want to play, and believe that we will qualify for Brazil 2014. Their individual mental and psychological preparations will be critical, as players have similar characteristics, whether they play locally or overseas.”
“The players who will be selected will be those who understand what the demands are at the international stage. We have to start winning games especially at home… the Stadium must be our fortress.” Mr. Schafer was contracted to lead the Reggae Boyz into the last four games of the 2014 CONCACAF World Cup Qualifiers. His contract came into effect on July 18, and, based on his performance, will be considered for cancellation or extension in November of this year.
The position was left vacant after Theodore Whitmore resigned from his position as Head Coach, following two draws and four straight defeats in the qualification rounds.
Jamaica is at the bottom of the CONCACAF Hexagonal Tables with two points in hand, and with only four games remaining, has to dig deep to garner sufficient points to proceed to the next level.
The country is the only one of the thirty-one Member Associations of the Caribbean Football Union which is still in contention for a place in the World Cup finals scheduled for 2014 in Brazil. It is expected, therefore, that the team will exert maximum effort to keep Caribbean hopes alive.
President of the Jamaica Football Federation, Captain Horace Burrell, led the country’s unprecedented qualification for the 1998 World Cup finals in France, and he has decided to contract coach Schafer in a bid to repeat history for Jamaica. The JFF boss said Traffic Sports of Brazil is paying a portion of the former Bundesliga coach’s salary, to facilitate his services for the campaign.
The fate of the island’s push for World Cup 2014 is now in the hands of the 63 year old German, who led Cameroon to the African Cup of Nations title in 2002. He also led German club Karlsrhue to the semi-finals of the UEFA Cup in the 1993/94 season. The Head Coach, who has thirty-one years’ experience as a manager, is surely aware that he faces an uphill task to reach the World Cup finals with the Reggae Boyz.
Mr. Schafer will be assisted by Vin Blaine, the Head Coach of the reigning Jamaican Premier League Champions Harbour View, and Technical Co-ordinator of the National Women’s Football Program.
The race to reach Brazil is not out of the question for Jamaica, as the top three teams will automatically qualify, with the fourth-placed team set to tackle Oceania champions New Zealand in a two-legged play-off for one World Cup berth.
The first of the four remaining qualifying games will kick-off with a match against Panama, when the Boyz travel there on September 6. Four days later, Jamaica will face Costa Rica at the National Stadium in Kingston.
Coach Schafer will then contend with the wits and tactics of another German Head Coach, the USA’s Jurgen Klinsmann, when USA hosts the Reggae Boyz on October 11. Four days later, on October 15, the Jamaicans will tackle the Hondurans in Kingston, to conclude their World Cup qualifying campaign.