The Golden Jaguars embarrassing loss to Suriname in an international friendly on Saturday has raised questions about the side’s local quality heading into their pivotal CONCACAF Nations League clash with Belize on March 23rd.
Although the 3-1 defeat did not indicate a scoreline associated with a lopsided result, many pundits, fans and sports commentators, were left perplexed by the team’s showing, which at times bordered on dismal against a clearly experimental Dutch side.
The comments by coach Michale Johnson following the contest at the Pierkhan Stadium, Nickerie, Suriname, effectively confirmed the lack of importance that the local contingent will serve in the team’s game plan for the match against Belize.
Johnson said, “The objective was completed, we wanted a tough fixture and opportunity to see the players in a tough fixture to see who can deliver and who may not be appropriate. Moving forward, we know exactly who we are taking with us.”
Quizzed if tactical changes will be employed heading into the Belize clash, Johnson declared, “I don’t think tactically but from a personnel standpoint. We have 12 international players flying in to join the camp and we will be ready for Belize.”
Frankly, the result was far from ideal for a team that has been training for eight weeks and severely damages the confidence of several local players in making the final eight [effectively 12 foreign players have been already selected].
Although not a brilliant showing, Kelsey Benjamin’s wonder strike might have sealed his place on the roster.
More importantly, Belize obviously would have been aware of the outcome of the match, and possibly utilized video footage of the contest, as an avenue to develop a scouting report of Guyana’s tactical and technical acumen or lack thereof.
After all, the Central American side, despite only making their international debut in 1995, has already been a participant of the CONCACAF Gold Cup, the 2013 edition and as such, are a professional unit in every regard.
History is also on side of the Belizeans, as the previous meeting of the nations ended 3-1 in their favour. This match occurred in 2002. The Golden Jaguars will surely have a task on their hand against ironically, the Jaguars’.
Analysis of their campaign, paints a picture of a side capable of securing a positive result at Leonora.
Home victories against Bahamas [4-0 on matchday-1] and Puerto Rico [1-0 on matchday-3] has highlighted their ability on both sides of the field, especially on the defensive end.
Their only came at the hands of a formidable and unbeaten Montserrat side [1-0 on matchday-3], a team that fields more than 70 percent of foreign based players. Examination of their squad over the Nations League campaign, illustrates a focus on breeding local content.
In total eight foreign based players have been utilized by the Belizean management team in 12 months, with 28 locally based players forming the core of the selection process.
Among the notable players that are expected to descend on local shores in search of the win are Georgia Revolution [4th Tier USA Football System] forward Deon McCaulay, Oxford City FC [6th Tier of English Football System] midfielder Michael Atkinson, Captain and defender Elroy Smith, midfielders Elroy Kuylen and Denmark Casey Jr and emerging talent Krisean Lopes.
McCaulay is the nation’s leading scorer with 23 goals in 44 games and has netted once in the competition. He is behind Lopes on the scoring charts, after Verdes FC forward recorded a brace against Bahamas.
Their other two goals in the Nations League came off the boot of midfielder and club mate [Verdes FC] Casey Jr, scorer in the Puerto Rico fixture and an own goal.
On the other hand, Captain Smith, 37, is their most capped player with 56 honours, with Kuylen a goal scoring threat from the engine room with five goals in 32 outings.
Guyana will faceoff with the 13th placed Belize at the National Track and Field Centre, Leonora.
Victory for either side would effectively clinch their participation in the 2019 CONCACAF Gold Cup. Guyana currently sit in 8th place on six points.