“Goals win matches.” This underappreciated adage is the quintessential football truism. In ‘non-elimination’ games (as are being played in the ongoing final round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying), a team’s failure to score at least one goal in any given game automatically means that the best result said team can hope for is a draw. Of course, a draw is always better than a loss. However, a win trumps both on any day of the week – and twice on Sundays.
In their three games thus far, the Reggae Boyz have netted a grand total of one goal. Unsurprisingly, they are yet to register a win while firmly entrenching themselves at the foot of the points table. A chronically creatively challenged midfield has contributed to the generation of very few goal-scoring opportunities. The precious few which were created were disappointingly spurned by the respective attackers to whom they fell.
Of these chances, three stand out most prominently in my mind: 1) Ryan Johnson tamely rolling the ball to Jesus Corona when one-on-one with the Mexican custodian at the Azteca; 2) Jermaine Beckford failing to ‘open up’ his body to the required degree to beat the Costa Rican goalkeeper in the last match; and Luton Shelton fluffing another one-on-one chance with Los Ticos’ shot-stopper with half-time just around the corner. The Boyz’ fortunes could have been dramatically altered if any – or all – of these chances had been converted.
This ‘can’t-score-itis’ is a seemingly incurable disease which has long afflicted the Boyz. No less than four different strikers were given starts as the desperate search for a cure continued. Alas, no cocktail of their variedly lively and lethargic efforts managed to yield the desired results. As a consequence, the Boyz’ chances of surviving and advancing to Rio 2014 fell precipitously. However, the injection of some dynamism in the attacking third of the field could quickly revive the team’s flagging hopes. In this prognosticator’s humble opinion, the players who are most likely to fill this prescription practice their craft right here in Jamaica.
Despite not figuring in the plans of the Reggae Boyz’ think-tank since the start of the World Cup campaign, no local player has managed to generate more buzz than Jermaine “Tuffy” Anderson. Based on his impressive goal-scoring feats in the Red Stripe Premier League, the prevailing opinion among the masses seems to be that Anderson could provide the crucial goals the team needs to propel it forward. I am inclined to agree. While the quantity of goals has been eye-catching, the quality of some of the Waterhouse marksman’s strikes has been even more so.
In a recent “Monday Night Football” game against Tivoli Gardens, Anderson scored with a side-footer from the top of the box that would have pleased any striker in the world. The power and laser-like precision evident as he nonchalantly dispatched the opportunity eloquently echoed his frequent assertions that he was born to score goals. If “Tuffy” can reproduce that type of clinical quality on the international stage, he could provide a goal-scoring boost similar to that supplied by Deon Burton on the road to the 1998 World Cup. Judging by the sentiments being expressed on the ground, he could also reenergize a fan base which has largely been beset by apathy since their beloved Boyz broke their hearts at “The Office” against Panama. It might well be time for the powers that be to finally unleash the self-described “tuff bwoy” to terrorize the nightmares of some defenders who do not hold Jamaican passports.
Following his recent scoring binge in the Premier League, young Jeremie Lynch might also deserve a recall to the national programme. Based on the little I have seen of him, he does not strike me as one who is given to shying away from the big moment. This quality was evident when he scored on debut against a plucky Guyana aggregation. It was also apparent in the way he stepped to the fore in the midst of Harbour View’s struggles, piloting them through some turbulent waters to safe harbour with the title in tow. Maybe a forward whose psyche is not scarred by World Cup qualification failure is just who the Reggae Boyz need to give their campaign a shot in the arm.
With that being said, there is obviously no striker who can single-handedly create and score the goals needed to turn potential losses and draws into victories. Jermaine Hue, the little maestro from Harbour View, is the man best equipped to inject some creative colour into a drab midfield. He needs to be given the playing time and license to provide the reliable supply the strikers so desperately need. In the end, only a more cohesive and potent attack will net Jamaica the goals it needs to win the games it needs to win to get back in the 2014 World Cup hunt. Some goals and a win against Mexico in their next match will put the Reggae Boyz right back into the thick of things.
The Benchwarmer’s Point of View
Wray & Nephew’s “Contender” boxing series is a great idea on many levels. It is generating considerable interest in a sport which had largely been pushed to the periphery in recent times. It is also providing much needed exposure to many formerly little-known local boxers. While many of the participating pugilists might have passed their personal primes, there are still a few young and promising enough to possibly parlay this exposure into long and sustained professional success. Additionally, it is proving to be an excellent promotional vehicle for its title sponsor and their affiliate endorsers. However, there is one thing about the show which really bothers me.
It is very dangerous for the producers to continue pitting neophytes against seasoned, hungry professionals with a million dollars on their minds. In recent weeks, both the soft-spoken Allan Cann and the not so soft-spoken Miguel “Iron Dog” Raye have been pounded like piñatas. Raye’s highly entertaining antics and histrionics aside, non-boxing reasons should never be among the criteria used to select a man to fight in a boxing match. It is never an encouraging sign when a man who is facing a possible fight for his life, as Cann was, says something to the effect that he will try his best. If not for the quick ‘hook’ of the referee, either man could have been seriously injured – or worse.
Boxing is a very dangerous sport for even the best of boxers. It is exponentially more dangerous for boxers who are obviously ill-equipped to handle its rigours and hazards. This harsh reality should never be lost on anyone.