Wednesday December 15, 2021 BY SANJAY MYERS Senior staff reporter – myerss@jamaicaobserver.com

Then Reggae Boyz Assistant Coach Paul Hall (left) gives instructions to players (from second left) Cory Burke, Andre Gray and Blair Turgott during the Concacaf Gold Cup Tournament in the United States in this July, 2021 file photo. Partly hidden is Assistant Coach Merron Gordon. (Photo: Richard Bell) 

JAMAICA’S Reggae Boyz interim Head Coach Paul Hall says he is confident that with the right attacking intent, in addition to unwavering commitment and focus from players, his team could “strike fear” in its Concacaf opponents.

The Jamaicans, who have only one victory in eight Concacaf qualifying matches, are sixth in the eight-team table with seven points. And with six matches remaining they continue to harbour slim hopes of advancing to next year’s football World Cup.

Canada lead the final-round qualifiers with 16 points, ahead of United States (15), Mexico (14), Panama (14) and Costa Rica (nine). Seventh-placed El Salvador have six points, while Honduras (three) are in last place.

“The pressure is there… we know what we have to do. There is no hiding away from the fact that we need to pick up points. I believe that we’ve got the players to be able to pick up those points and really strike fear into the rest of the Concacaf group,” Hall, who was last week announced as Theodore ”Tappa” Whitmore’s successor, said during a press conference on Monday.

“The squad must be committed — that’s one thing that I’ve always shown and I would expect commitment from each and every player,” he added.

“It’s very, very difficult to change the personality of the team in the short term because we are looking for results and we are just looking to pick a team and a squad that’s gonna get us results. However, I do like to press really high, I do like to make sure that the team is attack-minded and pass the ball around [with] possession-based play,” the former Jamaica forward explained.

He emphasised that quickly winning the ball back, ball movement, and getting into forward positions in “a controlled manner” as much as possible are central to how he wants the Reggae Boyz to play.

“I like to build play, I like to get the midfield players on the half turn, playing [the ball] forward.

“We have got players who can receive the ball and keep the ball in those deep-lying midfield areas. We’ve just got to make sure that we create situations for us to not lose the ball and really focus on keeping the ball. I want to have thinking players who can think on the spot and understand what the opposition is doing and react quickly,” he said.

Given the talent within the Jamaica squad, Hall, who was Whitmore’s assistant for the opening eight qualifiers, reasoned that lack of confidence might have contributed to the Boyz stuttering campaign to date.

“We just haven’t relaxed and played and shown what we really can do. My job is to get those players to relax and just play a bit more confidently and trust themselves and trust each other. Hopefully, we can play a bit more freely,” he told journalists.

After a horrid start to the final-round qualifiers, the Reggae Boyz are unbeaten in their last three matches: a 2-0 win away to Honduras, followed by 1-1 results away to El Salvador and at home to United States.

In San Salvador last month, the Jamaicans were denied all three points when they conceded a last-gasp goal after scoring late themselves. But for Bobby Reid’s glaring second-half miss and Damion Lowe’s late-headed goal being controversially disallowed, the Boyz might have taken all three points against USA in Kingston.

Hall noted that the team is starting to “take shape” after integrating a number of English-born players into the set-up.

The Jamaica senior men’s coach did not rule out the possibility of others joining the ranks if they prove to be assets to his team.

“It’s always good to have interest from players, especially from the top clubs in England. We have to have conversations with these players to see what their commitment is like. We know that there is a World Cup coming up and we know a lot of players will be making themselves available. If they can help us improve, brilliant, but we want people to be able to add value to what we’ve got and [to] improve us,” he said.

Hall added: “In the medium and long term we would look to try to get locally-based players to get experience around the professionals coming from England and America.”

Jamaica’s next scheduled qualifier is at home to Mexico on January 27, 2022. On January 30, the Boyz are set to face Panama away before closing the international window against visitors Costa Rica on February 2.

However, Hall’s stint is to begin with a scheduled international friendly against hosts Peru in Lima on January 20.

“We want to see what quality we’ve got with certain individuals in certain positions. We can use that as a prep game to see how [when] under fire those players will react with what I want to happen.

“We’ll try to get the players who are available or who are out of competition. What we want to do is have a look at these players outside of competition,” he said, noting that most top players will be unavailable because of club duties.

While the Reggae Boyz played their opening two home qualifiers inside an empty National Stadium as per Government’s guidelines to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, the Jamaica Football Federation was able to allow a limited number of spectators for the USA contest last month.

Hall, who enjoyed strong support from a packed home stadium as a player during the nation’s successful run to the France 1998 World Cup Finals, said having spectators will be pivotal.

“I felt with the last game we played the momentum was starting to shift. I think that was because we had some fans inside the stadium and they were so full of energy. We’ve got four of six [remaining] games at home and we want to be able to make it a fortress and a difficult place for them to come.

“We just need all the support we can get — the positive vibe and the positive messages. Everything needs to be thrown at these last six games. It really could help us if we have that crowd in. I know for a fact it helped us when we qualified in 1997,” he said.

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