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Jamaica stay in winning groove

COACH SUCCESS: Reggae Boyz coach Winfried Schäfer

JAMAICA CONTINUED their good form with another win against near neighbours. Darren Mattocks' prowess in front of goal continued as he added an eighth international strike to help the revitalised Reggae Boyz cruised to a 3-0 win over Cuba at Montego Bay on March 30.

The 24-year-old hitman, on target in Friday's 2-1 success over Venezuela, polished off a storming first-half for Jamaica to kill off the contest on 34 minutes.

And head coach Winfried Schäfer was enthusiastic as ever as his Boyz made it five wins on the trot, which included their shock 2014 Caribbean Cup success.

He said: “Our football is all about fighting, passing, counterattack and teamwork – we know what we need for success.”

Defender Daniel Gordon, who plies his trade for Karlsruher SC in Germany, bagged his first goal in a Jamaica shirt to put the hosts ahead in the opening minute.

And El Salvador-based Romeo Parkes, in only his third international game, doubled Jamaica's tally on 10 minutes with his maiden strike for the Boyz.

With Cuba – who unlike Jamaica did not have players from overseas – chasing the game following their early setback, the shape of their side altered to try and score goals.

But the Boyz, who kept their third clean sheet in four matches, remained as solid as ever in defence that bodes well for their tough summer in the Copa America (11June-4 July) and CONCACAF Gold Cup (July 7-26).

Fellow Gold Cup participants Cuba arrived in Jamaica on Friday, fresh from Wednesday's 3-0 win over the Dominican Republic, so they could size up the Boyz in Montego Bay. But however much homework Cuba had undertaken they could not have expected to concede so early on.

The Boyz were rampant after racing to a 2-0 lead, peppering the Cuba penalty area with speculative balls to feed Vancouver Whitecaps striker Mattocks who took his opportunity well and extend their lead.

With the friendly tied up by half time, after the interval Cuba tightened up their defence but at the other end became increasingly frustrated.

Schäfer, who has patiently overseen a recent transformation of the Boyz after a seven-game winless run that only ended in November's Caribbean Cup, will know that the two major tournaments – Copa America and Gold Cup – could shape their 2018 World Cup Qualifying campaign.

The German coach explained: “Many players call me as they want to play for Jamaica after the Caribbean Cup success. But I have to see the players in their clubs and they have to work harder at their clubs to get in the Jamaica team.”

As Caribbean champions, Jamaica will be relishing both the Copa America in Chile and the CONCACAF Gold Cup in Canada and the United States.

The Boyz face a tricky set of matches in the Copa America, kicking off against Uruguay at Antofagasta on 13 June. Paraguay are their next opponents in the group stages, again in Antofagasta on 16 June. And Argentina is the stiffest test at Vina del Mar on 20 June.

In the Gold Cup the Boyz will tackle 2014 World Cup quarter-finalists Costa Rica on July 8 in Carson to open their group games, Canada in Houston on July 11 and El Salvador in Toronto on July 14.

Schäfer added: “South American teams are better than Caribbean teams as the style is not the same because they possess the ball a lot.”

Jamaica, who were rebranded the Reggae Boyz following the ambitious 1994 appointment of Brazilian coach Renes Simoes, appear to be returning to their dizzy heights under Schäfer although this summer's competitions will be the true litmus test of where the Boyz really stand.

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