… Head coach hoping for negative return
GOLDEN Jaguars head coach Marcio Maximo is hoping that all of his 32 shortlisted, locally-based players can return a negative COVID-19 Test as the Guyana Football Federation (GFF) moves into first gear, preparing the country’s Senior Men’s National football team for their busy 2021 on the international schedule.
First up for the Golden Jaguars is a trip to the Twin Island Republic for a March 25 clash with regional nemesis Trinidad and Tobago in their first of four matches in the CONCACAF Qatar World Cup Qualifiers.
This week, GFF announced that all local-based players and staff of the Golden Jaguars were tested for COVID-19, following the granting of approval for the resumption of national team activities by the National COVID-19 Task Force.
“I would like to reinforce the importance of testing for the safety of everyone. All of the players were present without any absentees, which proved that they are aware of this issue. They represent the nation. We hope that the results are good and that we can continue our work,” Maximo said.
Once given the all-clear by the Ministry of Health, upon a negative return for the players and staff, the squad will then be free to participate in initial physical evaluations, scheduled for today and tomorrow at the National Training Centre.
According to GFF, once those evaluations are complete, the squad will commence training under strict health and safety protocols. Ten members of the national team backroom staff were also tested.
GFF president Wayne Forde, said, “This is an exciting moment for the players and staff as we make progress in implementing our 100-day ‘Bounceback’ plan, following our engagement with the UEFA Assist programme.”
Forde noted that GFF is “extremely grateful for the support and guidance of the National COVID-19 Task Force in approving our plans and the Ministry of Health in conducting these tests. We are taking every possible step to provide a COVID-secure environment so that the squad and staff remain safe and well during training.”
“With several important fixtures on the horizon, it is important for us to commence our preparations as soon as possible, as long as conditions allow, to give Guyana the best chance of success in the 2020 FIFA World Cup qualifiers in March and June, followed by our historic return to the CONCACAF Gold Cup stage in July,” Forde said.
The national squad will be split into two groups of 16 for its physical evaluation on today and tomorrow, with weekly COVID-19 tests planned to monitor the wellbeing of the group as they progress through its training schedule.
Golden Jaguars were drawn in Group F alongside Trinidad and Tobago, The Bahamas, Puerto Rico and St Kitts & Nevis.
Following their March 25 clash with Soca Warriors, Golden Jaguars will return home to roar against The Bahamas on Tuesday, March 30.
On Friday, June 4 Guyana will travel to St Kitts & Nevis for their third game and then host Puerto Rico on Tuesday, June 8.
Golden Jaguars’ best run in the FIFA World Cup qualifiers came during the run-up to the 2014 tournament in Brazil, where they had reached the penultimate round of the CONCACAF zone.
It was during that run they had a memorable showing against Trinidad and Tobago on November 11, 2011 at Guyana National Stadium where Guyana had won 2-1, thanks to goals from Ricky Shakes and former English Premier League player Leon Cort.
Guyana last faced Trinidad and Tobago during the 2019 CONCACAF Gold Cup, where, despite a beautiful goal scored by Neil Danns, the two sides ended the match with a 1-1 draw.
Guyana only played Puerto Rico twice at the senior level internationally, with the U.S. territory winning 2-0 in 1993, and Golden Jaguars, with a goal from defender King Solomon Austin, winning 1-0. The clash against St Kitts and Nevis will mark the third meeting for Guyana, but it will also be the first time the two countries are meeting during a World Cup qualification tournament.