Head coach of the Golden Jaguars (Guyana’s national senior football team) Michael Johnson yesterday stopped just short of guaranteeing a win against Belize next month but stressed yesterday the importance of the upcoming fixture.
According to Johnson, the match, scheduled for March 23 at the Providence National Stadium, comes at a significant juncture in the nation’s footballing aspirations.
“We all know what is at stake here. We all know the opportunities it would give to the players, we all know it would put Guyana on the footballing map, the international stage so we understand the nature of the game and we will be trying 100% to make sure we deliver on it,” he told media operatives during a training session at the National Training Centre, Providence for the local Golden Jaguars contingent.
“As a country and as a team, as staff and as players it’s massive, “he said adding that the management staff and players are focused on the upcoming task.
“My job is to make sure that everyone is really tuned into what we want to do so that we can give 100% and leave nothing to doubt than we giving 100% to make sure that we qualify. Individual performances and collective as a team, my job is to make that happen.”
Johnson said that it would be a major disappointment if his side failed to overcome the final hurdle.
“I know the job is for us to qualify,” he declared.
Guyana will faceoff with Belize on March 23rd at the National Track and Field Centre, Leonora in a must-win clash in the CONCACAF Nations League.
Victory for the local side would effectively clinch their maiden 2019 CONCACAF Gold Cup berth. Guyana currently sits in eighth place on six points.
Quizzed on the status of the foreign contingent and how they compare to the local provisional squad, Johnson said: “Obviously the foreign players are in a fulltime league programme. It would be hard to make comparisons. They are paid to go and play games day out, perform on a high stage. Obviously you expect the players overseas to be in a very good place but coming into camp I could already see the advantages of a surface like this. The players want to come in, they are in early already honing their skills before we even start.”
According to Johnson, all 13 of the previous foreign players are in contention for places on the squad.
“Everybody is in contention and I wouldn’t rule out anybody. Even players that have probably played or not been involved in. I am looking at this group of players with a fresh eye. Everybody is in contention, this is why the camp is here so we can see which players are outperforming the other players. It is open for anybody to come and compete. It would be remiss of me to rule out anyone at this stage. Everybody has an opportunity to pull on the shirt come March 23rd.”
Johnson praised the facility the players were training on.
“It’s an excellent facility to work. The idea is obviously to come in and support, nurture and get the players ready for what is a massive game in March. Charles [Pollard] has done a brilliant job, he really has and now we are trying to move that programme onto the final stage where we really start to consider some of the local players, which one is going to join us for the squad on March 23rd. A lot of the players are in a good place and they are only going to get fitter, get stronger from now on.”
Asked if the management staff is in possession of information on the Belize unit, Johnson said.
“[There a] good team that has been together for a number of years. They play a 3-5-2 system, very good in transition and very good at defending and breaking at speeds so we have to be ready for it. We are preparing for it, we are making sure we leave no stones upturned and there is no way we will leave any stones upturned going into this game.”
Jonson said the players needed to be ready mentally for the big occasion.
“I always say this statement because the occasion is such a big occasion and it’s the mentality not so much the technical ability. It’s the players who have the mentality to deal with such a big tournament. Certain good players they get to a big tournament and they don’t perform. We are no different, we have to make that mentally we are ready not only for the game but also the qualification that will bring.”