Shabazz quantifies task ahead in World Cup Qualifiers after scouting trip
National Coach of the Golden Jaguars, Jamaal Shabazz has made a
candid effort to both inform and curb the ambitions of the football loving Guyanese public ahead of the teams historic opening match versus Mexico on June 8th, at the world renowned Estadio Azteca, in the third round of 2014 CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers.
Shabazz spoke to the local media recently in a wide ranging press conference at the Guyana Football Federation (GFF) headquarters before he and the national team comprised mainly of young players departed for Martinique and Guadeloupe, where they will contest two international friendly fixtures as part of the “Two Tier system” strategy to expose and widen the pool of players in the national roster.
He revealed that on April 11th, he made a scouting trip to watch Costa Rica play Honduras at the Estadio Nacional in San Jose Costa Rica. The game ended in a 1-1 draw.
In his findings, Shabazz noted his most prominently discovery was the exuberant connection between the Costa Rican players and their supporters during the game. He explained how “12th man” factor of the crowd in an almost telepathic manner transformed the locals in the second period of the game, after the visiting Honduras unit had dominated the initial proceedings – similar to how the Guyanese public on the now famous evening that was dubbed 11.11.11 – packed the Providence stadium in a kaleidoscope of yellow to help Guyana topple the Soca Warriors.
The following assessment was then made by Guyana’s pragmatic coach that hails from Trinidad and Tobago.
“We are under no delusions; everyone knows Mexico and Costa Rica are giants of world football. If we half step, we could get hammered 8-0 like what happened when Alpha United played Heridiano of Costa Rica in the CONCACAF Champions league last year and as nations we could be hurt”, stated Shabazz frankly.
Shabazz then went on to articulate a more positive outlook based on his Central American sojourn.
“But when they (Heridiano) came to Guyana, Alpha was leading 2-0 for a long time, before the game ended in 2–2. That is the fickle nature of football; there is possibility to beat even the best teams in the world. During the Costa Rica scouting I saw potential areas where they give up space in midfield and where the height of our players could be of some advantage. It excites me but not to a state of delusion where I will fool the Guyanese public we can win”, he noted cautiously.
He further elaborated his point by mentioning why despite the large disparity between Mexico and Guyana in FIFA ranking’s system, the players and especially the local fans should not be phased.
“After the team lost to Guatemala 2-0 in February I noted the frustration amongst the Guyanese which seemed to be already totally writing off Guyana’s chances against Mexico. Many people who like to use ranking systems to make high pronouncements on football would already claim it’s a mis-match waiting to happen given that two teams are ranked 20th and 99th in the world respectively”, explained the national coach.
“By that reasoning, if we do some maths and divide 99 by 20, and we use logics and statistics which is what as humans we are trained to do, that would mean Guyana already start that game 4 to 5 goals down then?”, he questioned.
Based on this synopsis Shabbaz concluded by stressing painstakingly to the national public why their support in the three games Guyana have at home versus Costa Rica on June 12th, El Salvador on September 11th and Mexico October 12th could make a massive difference in this qualifying stage for the Golden Jaguars.
“This is why I stress the importance again of 12th man home support rather than having any worries about the obvious gap in quality between Guyana and teams like Mexico and Costa Rica. The energy the locals will bring in driving the team to win a tackle in midfield or get on the end of important cross can be a defining moment in a game that could have a major influence on the final result”.
“Any team in the world in my opinion will struggle versus Guyana against corners and free kicks from at the side of the field. Although we defeated Trinidad in that famous game last year – if we play them again in another venue from Providence with their full strength team – it could be very difficult to beat them. So the fans need to understand the magnitude of their role and I assure them Guyana will compete in these qualifiers instead of just being an irrelevant participant.