Winfried Schafer (pictured) will lead Jamaica for the first time, when it faces Panama in a World Cup qualifier on September 6, 2013. (Photo courtesy of the Jamaica Football Federation)
KINGSTON, Jamaica -- The road to the 2014 World Cup finals in Brazil has been a challenging one for Jamaica to navigate. After opening the final round of qualifying with two points from its first six matches, Theodore Whitmore was replaced at the helm by a German with a proven record of success in other regions of the globe.
Winfried Schafer, who was appointed as the new head coach almost two months ago, will lead the only Caribbean side left in qualifying against Panama as it attempts to revive its campaign.
The Jamaicans are five points off the pace for a spot in the Intercontinental playoff against New Zealand with only four matches remaining on the fixture list.
That fact, though, is not deterring Schafer in the least.
“There is always hope...hope never dies,” said the former Borussia Moenchengladbach player, during an interview with CONCACAF.com. “Continuous evaluation of the players will be done by viewing the matches played in the qualifiers and not their clubs. A decision will be made on the best system and players that will be used.”
As time and games run short, Schafer knows that a high level of commitment to the Jamaican cause is crucial regardless of talent levels and past achievements.
“Players will have to first want to play and believe that we will qualify for Brazil 2014,” he continued. “Their individual mental and psychological preparations will be critical as players have similar characteristics, whether they play locally or overseas.
“Players who will be selected will be players 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.”
The 63-year-old brings a wealth of experience to the table and he is best known for leading Cameroon to the African Cup of Nations title in 2002 and a runner-up finish at the 2003 FIFA Confederations Cup. Jamaican Vin Blaine, the head coach of the reigning Jamaican Premier League champion Harbour View and technical coordinator of the national women’s football program, will be his assistant.
If Jamaica is to make a second-ever appearance at a World Cup, a win in Panama City is a must. The belief it can be done is a necessary first step, though, in making that dream come true.