By Santokie Nagulendran
Tonight the Golden Jaguars kick off against Grenada aka ‘’The Spice Boyz’’, ranked 158th in the FIFA Rankings,
marginally ahead of Guyana, but that could all change should the Golden Jaguars win tonight. After a successful 2-0 victory over St Lucia last week, the Golden Jaguars are riding a wave of confidence coming into this game, and will be aided by the fact that this game, unlike last week’s, is taking place during FIFA’s International Window.
The timing during the International Window means that players based abroad have permission to play for the Golden Jaguars tonight: meaning that Walter Moore, Trayon Bobb and Pernell Schultz should all feature. The highly-anticipated debut of Matthew Briggs and Neil Danns, who have both played in England’s Premier League, will also massively boost the squad, with both players having landed in Guyana last week to meet their new team-mates.
Walter Moore, who has just joined Finnish Premier League side FF Jaro, took some time out from training with the National Team to speak exclusively on the upcoming game: “Training has been going great, it’s always a pleasure working with Jamaal Shabazz. The guys are fit, focused and ready to go. It feels great to be back home playing, it’s always a pleasure to represent your country.” Speaking on the arrival of new players Danns and Briggs, Moore went on to say: “From the first training session I thought these guys are the real deal and it’s good for the team. They are great players, strong and fast, but most of all they are humble guys who I am happy to play with for Guyana.” Despite Matthew Briggs playing in the same Left-Back position, Moore is not worried by the competition for a starting
place: “These guys have been competing at a high level for years and so it makes Jamaal Shabazz’s job much harder, because my own game has been improving.”
The fact that Guyana can call on players based in Europe and competing in high quality leagues can only benefit the National set-up, when asked about his time in Finland so far, Moore said: “It’s been going great! I feel at home, the coach (Russian-born Alexei Eramenko Sr) is a similar coach to Jamaal Shabazz, both have similar styles of play they want from their teams and their methods in coaching are similar. The players at FF Jaro are more like brothers to me, so to be honest I’m loving it and I’m hoping that we bring home some silverware this season.”
In last Sunday’s 2-0 victory over St Lucia, the Golden Jaguars put in an assured performance, that showed a confidence and composure which was indicative of the team’s high quality. A notable performance came from young striker Sheldon Holder, who has scored 2 goals in 2 games this year for the National Team, and overall, it was a positive outing for the mainly local-based side, in front of a large and passionate Guyanese crowd.
Grenada have also had a busy March: they recently competed in two friendly games against Bermuda, losing 2-0 and drawing 2-2 in the games. Striker Kithson Bain will be familiar to Guyanese football fans: he played for Alpha United last season, and will therefore have great experience of playing at Providence stadium. Bain, now at ‘Happy Hill FC’ in the Grenadian league, has scored 15 goals in 35 appearances for Grenada’s national team and will represent their biggest goal-threat, although Assistant Coach Wayne Dover, who coached Bain at Alpha, will have great knowledge of the player’s strengths and weaknesses.
On paper, they are a side with less quality than St Lucia, although they should not be ruled out of the contest. All the players in the side have played league football regularly within the past twelve months, and thus, it is likely that in terms of fitness, they could be superior to the Golden Jaguars, the majority of whom have played scarce domestic football in recent times. In 2014 Caribbean Cup qualifiers, Grenada earned two draws against a very strong French Guiana (who went on to finish 5th in the final tournament) and Puerto Rico, so the team are capable of producing results when it matters.
Victory against Grenada tonight will mean that Guyana climb up the FIFA rankings as they look to recover from their decline over the past few years. It will also send a message out to the rest of the region that the win against St Lucia was no fluke and that the Golden Jaguars are here to succeed at the highest level.
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