Reggae Boyz Look to Continue Momentum Against El Salvador

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(AP Photo/Ronald Zak)AP

Head Coach Theodore Whitmore believes that the Reggae Boyz have checked most of the boxes in preparation for today’s crucial CONCACAF World Cup Qualifier against El Salvador inside Estadio Cuscatlan.

The kick-off is slated for 9:05 pm.

In other games in the Final Round, Honduras host Panama at 8:05 pm, Costa Rica play away to Canada at 9:05 pm, and the US play host to Mexico at 9:10 pm.

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Earlier this week Whitmore noted that the challenge of the technical staff would be striking the right balance and picking the right team. When faced with a similar situation in September, Whitmore employed wholesale changes and it backfired spectacularly with the team being annihilated 3-0 at home by Panama.

It is clear that the 1998 star midfielder does not want to make the same mistake and as such, it is unlikely that some of the big-name stars will be injected into the first team from the get-go.

Whitmore was also keen on maintaining the solid defensive output, having kept the opposition out in the last two games. With that in mind, there is every chance he goes with the same defensive four which largely did the job on the last two occasions, even with a fit-again Liam Moore back in the fold.

Still, he’s pleased with the preparation leading into the game.

“So far we have two nice training sessions, we just completed the third. The first day coming in it was just a fun training session, just to get the guys out and relaxed. Yesterday (Wednesday) the intensity of the training was very high, I was pleased with what I saw.

“We just completed our final training session (Thursday morning) and we are looking forward to the game tomorrow (today).”

And with the media fascinated by the presence of West Ham United’s ace striker Michail Antonio, Whitmore was quick to play down individuality in his team and focused more on the unit.

“…not focusing on any individual we are focusing on the team. It is always difficult coming into El Salvador Stadium and playing. Michail Antonio is here but not only Michail Antonio, but every player which represents the national team is a very important part of the national team, not only Michail Antonio. We have 24 players and we have to focus on the 24 players.”

The coach also hinted that one of the team strategies was to inject raw speed to counter the opposition and as such he welcomed the return of Leon Bailey of Aston Villa Football Club in the English Premier League.

“It’s good to have all the players at our disposal, we welcome a fit Leon Bailey; so far he has participated in all our training sessions, we know what Leon Bailey brings to this team and as I keep saying the execution will be key for the game tomorrow.”

Captain Andre Blake says there is no excuse as this team, an upgrade of the team which lost 2-0 in the Nations Cup two years ago, is equipped to do much better.

“Yes, we have a more rounded team, we have a lot more talent and we have a team that we can field any player on any day and we would not miss a beat, so yeah, definitely we are a better team than we were in 2019.

“No complaints, we are here to play football and we are going to go out tomorrow and play football and try to get a result. There’s no excuse,” he reiterated.

For Fulham United’s Bobby Reid, who could be in the starting team, it is all about the Boyz giving all they have got to get the three points.

“It’s been good, everyone has come together with one focus and the objective is to get three points, so it’s looking good,” he said.

He also noted that it was a far cry from what was offered in September against Panama.

“I think there is a different mindset, we know what we need to do to win games and there is a sole focus on doing that. Everyone’s come together and spoken and we’ve come to a focus of how we are going to play and sticking with it.

“First and foremost you have to fight, you’ve got to match their intensity, match their hard work and if we do that I think we’ve got more than enough quality to come out on top and get a result.”

The 14-game, round-robin Final Round is being led by Mexico with 14 points, three ahead of the US, with Canada a point further back in third. Panama on eight points are fourth, with Costa Rica next on six points, followed by Jamaica and El Salvador on five points, with Honduras bringing up the rear on three points.

The top three teams at the end of the series earn automatic berths to Qatar next year, with the fourth-placed finisher booking an Intercontinental play-off for another chance at glory.

By L Bronson


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