JamaicaIllustrated By Alison Cowles
JAMAICA'S HEX CAMPAIGN started with two draws and went into a complete tailspin after. The Reggae Boyz would be shock entrants in Brazil after dropping four straight results and looking awful in doing so. That doesn't mean there wont be an effort made by the Caribbean squad, but it does mean a new man in charge. Former national team star Theodore Whitmore was replaced by Winfried Schaefer who will have to curry favor with the numerous European-based Jamaicans who became disenchanted with the squad under "Tappa".It's not that there's no talent. Jamaica shocked the United States in Kingston during the third round of qualification, earning a richly deserved 2-1 victory. Independence Park, nicknamed The Office, is one of the most fun venues in CONCACAF, a menagerie of reggae beats, colorful fans, and diehard supporters. It offers its own unique take on home-field advantage. Despite the win over the Americans, Jamaica needed a 4-1 win over Antigua & Barbuda on the final matchday, combined with the U.S.'s 3-1 defeat of Guatemala, to reach the Hexagonal. A betting man would have to place the Reggae Boyz last in the Hex, and the other teams in the group are highlighting the remaining matches against the Caribbeans as prime opportunities to pick up all three points.
The CoachWINFRIED SCHAEFER replaced Theodore Whitmore as Jamaica manager on July 17. The move no doubt resulted from Jamaica's poor showing thus far in the Hex. The team is 0-2-4 and in last place in the final round of World Cup qualification. Will the 63-year-old Schaefer be able to turn things around for the Reggae Boyz? Hard to say. But the German does have a solid resume: In 2002 he led Cameroon to the World Cup and the Africa Cup of Nations title.
The TacticsA COMBINATION OF SPEED, power, and raw determination, Jamaica will try whatever it needs to get a result. Under Theodore Whitmore, what consistent strategy can be identified has worked pretty well, with the Reggae Boys back in the Hexagonal after a 12-year absence. An increased number of Europe- and U.S.-based players have upgraded the Jamaicans to a team that’s more than just a physical threat. The coach, known as a midfield general during his playing days, is attempting to get his entire team to play as he did: calmly, smartly, effectively, and with a little flair. But the same group that has played well enough in qualifying to date–knocking off the U.S. for the first time ever in Kingston last year–floundered without its European stars at the recent Caribbean Cup, finishing last in a group including Martinique, Cuba, and French Guyana. Those ups and downs suggest that the Reggae Boys are probably the weakest team in this year’s Hexagonal. When things are going well, Whitmore's squad looks organized and confident. But too often they panic, especially in the back, and resort to athleticism. That was enough in the early rounds but it won't be going forward. The Americans had never lost to Jamaica until that September night; don’t look for it to happen again in 2013.
The HistoryJAMAICA REACHED THE World Cup once in its history, going 1-2-0 with a minus-6 goal differential during the 1998 tournament. The team failed to reach the Hexagonal in 2006 and 2010 after finishing fifth in 2002.
World Cup Results1990: DNQ (Eliminated in the second round of 1989 CONCACAF Championship qualifying)
1994: DNQ (Eliminated in second round)
1998: Group Stage
2002: DNQ (Eliminated in final round)
2006: DNQ (Eliminated in semifinal round)
2010: DNQ (Eliminated in semifinal round)