Golden Jaguars’ Head Coach calls for “stronger minds” in Gold Cup quest

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By Akeem Greene

To defeat Belize and make a historic qualification to the CONCACAF Gold Cup, the senior National Men’s Football team, commonly called Golden Jaguars, will have to overcome the battle in the mind rather than on the field. This is according to Head Coach, Michael Johnson.

On paper, the equation is simple, a win for the Jaguars and a new frontier for the country’s international football opens.

Given the humongous stakes on the table, it means whoever makes the final squad needs to ensure they collectively play the match of their lives, but that is easier said than done.

Johnson, in addressing the media on Tuesday afternoon at the National Training Centre at Providence, was firm on the stance that players need to be ready for the mental rigours.

“It is mentality and not so much the technical ability; it is the players who have the mentality to deal with such a big tournament, certain good players get to a big tournament and they don’t perform. We have to make sure we are ready for not only the game coming, but also the qualification and what it will bring.”

The opposition sits five spots below Jaguars in 13th place on the points table. They too have a shot at qualifying, given they have won two matches and lost one which also ties them on points with the Jaguars.

Gregory ‘Jackie Chan’ Richardson is one the local-based players hard at work

Johnson, who is on the cusp of greatness in respect to Guyana’s football, said they must be mindful of the threat posed by Belize.

“The team [Belize] has over the years played a 3-5-2 system and they are very good in transition. They are good in defending and breaking at quick speed and we go to be ready for it. Analytically, we are preparing for it right now and we are making sure we leave no stone unturned. We will be ready for the game and it is no way we could leave any stone unturned going into this game.”

The former Jamaica national player, who played in the Gold Cup in 2000, indicated everyone must give 100%, given the life-changing events that can occur.

“This is massive; we all know what is at stake here. We know the opportunities it would give for the players; we all know it would put Guyana on the footballing map. We understand the ramifications of the game and we will be trying 100% to ensure we deliver.”

The match is slated for March 23 and according to the CONCACAF schedule, it will be played at the Leonora Stadium from 18:30h.

However, it is understood the Guyana Football Federation hopes to secure the National Stadium, Providence, for the contest.

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