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Austin admits Jamaica have a 'problem'

CAPTAIN: Rodolph Austin (PA)

JAMAICA SKIPPER Rodolph Austin worryingly admits that the Reggae Boyz have a problem only hours before tonight's must-win Caribbean Cup tie against Antigua & Barbuda in Montego Bay.

The influential Leeds United midfielder said: “As a team it's our responsibility and we have to fix the problem.

“The performance against Martinique was not good enough, but the pitch was a bit heavy and it's going to take more to win this tournament.”

Jamaica's plight on the field since German coach Winfried Schäfer took charge – which included crashing out of World Cup Qualifying, June's humiliating 8-0 defeat to France and the abysmal reversal to Canada in September – has left fans and sponsors treating the Reggae Boyz with severe trepidation.

And Schäfer's sides have seen almost every opponent exploit their vulnerability, which continued with their jittery start to the Caribbean Cup resulting in another indifferent display with Wednesday's 1-1 stalemate against little-fancied Martinique.

Martinique face Haiti at 5pm Jamaican time in their Group B game, with Antigua & Barbuda – who drew 2-2 against Haiti – facing the Boyz three hours later.

Results since Schäfer was appointed make grim statistics and any thoughts of the German coach leading the Boyz through the 2018 World Cup Qualifying rounds will dwindle should Jamaica fail to negotiate their way out of the four-team group.

A top two place now seems a daunting task for the Boyz unless they fire on all cylinders tonight, and even if they manage to reach the semi-finals they will face one of teams from Group A that comprises favourites Trinidad & Tobago, defending champions Cuba and the two minnows of Curaçao and French Guiana.

Jamaica's lack of goals will be severely tested to the hilt when they tackle Antigua & Barbuda as shotstopper Molvin James, who impressed against Haiti, is in top form.

Antigua & Barbuda coach Rolston Williams remains upbeat and said: “Molvin James was brilliant and kept us in the game against Haiti with a number of clinical saves, he was our stand-out player.

“But we've seen enough of Jamaica to be able to put plans in place to counter them, they are playing the same formation and are not doing anything different than what we saw on the tapes. I'm still optimistic about this tournament for us.”

While Antigua & Barbuda are optimistic, Schafer seems to be losing his grip on getting Jamaica to play flowing football.

With the Caribbean Cup semi-finalists guaranteed a place in the lucrative Gold Cup competition, failure on home soil for the Boyz will undoubtedly leave Captain Horace Burrell and the rest of the Jamaica Football Federation board members prepared to press the panic button and replace yet another coach.

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