Jamaica finds stride in Caribbean Cup

Jamaica (pictured) celebrates after scoring in a 3-0 Caribbean Cup win over Antigua on November 14, 2014, in Montego Bay, Jamaica.

MONTEGO BAY, Jamaica – The word “frustrated” encapsulated, perhaps, the best way to describe the general mood after Jamaica’s Caribbean Cup opening 1-1 draw against Martinique.

Much was expected of the tournament host prior to the competition, but long travel and the absences of key defenders Wes Morgan and Adrian Mariappa – both English Premier League performers – may have contributed to a result that was not initially anticipated.

Fast forward to Friday and the Reggae Boyz side that home supporters craved to see was in full bloom.

An enterprising display of attacking football resulted in a confidence-boosting 3-0 win over Antigua & Barbuda.  There was clear improvement in finishing and effective use of wing play.  Darren Mattocks struck for his second goal in as many games, Dane Richards and Hughan Gray were terrors down the right, while Simon Dawkins was purposeful on the left.

The difference was night and day.  Head coach Winfried Schafer, however, never doubted his squad.

“I believe in my team,” said the 64-year-old German after the match.  “I believe in my players and this is our 23 players.  I told you last time (after the draw with Martinique) that this is our team now.  We cannot after the match…Wes Morgan, Mariappa are playing or not.  This is our team and I give this team trust. 

“Why I’m happy today is that this team play, I told them before the match, they have to play with the heart and the head.”

For as much as football is about talent and tactics, emotion often plays a role in execution.  Schafer wanted the national team to compete at its best for Jamaica. 

“The players fight for the country, fight for this island,” he expressed.  “All the players, whether from overseas or from here, this is what I like." 

In order to reach the final against long-time rival Trinidad & Tobago, Jamaica (1-1-0, 4 points) has to defeat Haiti (1-1-0, 4 points) on Sunday.  Though they are level in first on points and goal difference, the Haitians have scored more goals (5-4).  A loss, depending on the result of the game earlier in day between Antigua (0-1-1, 1 point) and Martinique (0-1-1, 1 point), could see Jamaica eliminated altogether.

“We have to win the next match,” finished Schafer.  “Haiti make problem.  It is a very difficult match.  Haiti is a good team, a very good team.  We have to go again at our limit.”