Golden Jaguars hunt Gold Cup glory from Tuesday

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The ‘Land of Many Waters’ will cement football history on Tuesday at the Allianz Field in St. Paul, Minnesota, when the flagship team, the ‘Golden Jaguars’, open their bid for glory at the 2019 Concacaf Gold Cup against defending champions, USA.

Guyana inked its name on the Gold Cup schedule after ending the Nations League in seventh place overall after a 2-1 win over visiting Belize at the Leonora Track and Field Facility in March, this year.

The Guyana Football Federation then moved to another gear to ensure that the team, led by former Jamaican national player, Michael Johnson as Head Coach, was afforded every opportunity to be prepared for the task at hand of taking on the USA, Panama and Trinidad and Tobago in Group D.

The team has now been together from the beginning of June as they embarked on a period of encampment, which included two friendly internationals against host Bermuda and Haiti in Costa Rica.

Preparations continued in the Minneapolis USA and now St. Paul, Minnesota, ahead of Tuesday’s opening clash against the host and defending champions.

Johnson is steadfast in the fact that his charges are very prepared for the task at hand, citing that they have been living together and getting to know each other both on and off the field of play.

“For the last few days we’ve had a chance to really batten down and deal with what we expect, as we know the team now and this has allowed us to be more precise in our work and more detailed from an analytic point of view both in and out of possession and how we’re going to approach this game.”

Acknowledging that at this level experience is always needed, Johnson also said that there is also need for youthful legs, especially in areas where you might be able to hurt the opposition.

“The team’s been picked appropriately for this game and, more likely or not, it could change for the next one; but we feel what we’ve got at our disposal that we are in a very, very good place with hours left before the big game.”

The experienced Johnson, who represented Jamaica at the Gold Cup, zoomed in on the fact that for the majority of the players, this is the biggest stage they have ever played at and with this comes anxiousness, nervousness as well as a tinge of excitement.

“But we’ve been able to handle that as a staff, you know, I’ve talked to them about my experiences in big games and how you approach them but we all know once the whistle blows the nervousness goes, the anxiousness goes because now you are in it and that’s what we all can’t wait for now.”

The chief tactician stated that the build-up has been tremendous and they are ready to go reiterating that the challenge is being embraced by both players and management.

Ending on the note that qualification for this, the highest level competition in Concacaf is a massive achievement, Johnson posited that they want to go one step further.

“I think we, by our own professionalism, by our own expectations, are putting more pressure on us internally than probably anybody else. I’ve seen statements that don’t give us a chance, written us off; we won’t score a goal, easy game for America. But internally, I think there is an inner belief and a real resilience that that’s the case and I think that’s where the pressure comes from us in our own environment, thinking we can do a lot better than the so-called armchair pundits, press, players from America and coaching staff have said.”

Captain of the team Sam Cox, commenting on the tournament, noted that his colleagues as a collective would have been excited ever since the draw was made and the occasion would be fantastic for the players and country as it presents the ideal platform for Guyana’s name to be put on the world stage in front of 40 million viewers.

“It’s going to be a brilliant occasion; it’s a different experience for all of us, a situation that we’ve never been in. we’ve had the Nation League games, World Cup Qualifiers in the past but never have we been to a major tournament so it’s been a complete different experience to what we’ve had before. I feel the boys and I are mentally prepared; we know that we are in a very tough group but we feel that if we apply ourselves properly we can surprise a few people, we can compete and hopefully we can gain the respect of a lot of people along the way.”

Cox closed on the note that, “We are going to do our talking on the pitch.” Kick off time is this feature match is 21:00h in St. Paul MN and 22:00h Guyana time.

Trinidad and Tobago would face off with Panama in the Group D opening clash.

Saturday, June 22 – FirstEnergy Stadium, Cleveland, OH (Group D)

17:30h- Guyana v Panama

19:30h- USA v Trinidad and Tobago

Wednesday, June 26 – Children’s Mercy Park, Kansas City, KS (Group D)

18:30h- Trinidad and Tobago v Guyana

10:30h- Panama v USA

End of Group Stage.

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