GOALS: Jamaica's national coach Theodore Whitmore
THE JAMAICAN Reggae Boyz are aiming to kick-off their CONCACAF World Cup qualifying final round with an upset over hosts Mexico on Wednesday (9.30pm Jamaican time, 2.30pm GMT).
Although the Boyz have yet to avoid defeat in all previous outings to Mexico, they have always struggled with the high altitude more than the opposition's skills.
The Estadio Azteca in Mexico City, where the Boyz were overwhelmed 3-0 in a World Cup qualifier five years ago, stands 2,240 metres above sea level so naturally gives the hosts a huge advantage.
Despite suffering 16 defeats out of the past 20 encounters with Mexico, the Jamaican side have registered three victories over "El Tri". So a first ever success on Mexican soil is not out of the question for Theodore Whitmore's confident outfit that is looking strong.
Coach Whitmore will have informed his squad to expect the Mexican players to whistle to each other for the ball due to the high altitude and other vital information he gleaned having previously played a pivotal role in midfield for the Boyz.
The squad arrived in Mexico at the team’s base, the Radisson Paraiso Hotel, in four groups at different times.
The first Boyz to land at Benito Juarez International Airport comprised Jermaine Hue, Ryan Johnson, DuWayne Kerr, Andre Lewis, Alvas Powell, Jermaine Taylor, Donovan Ricketts and Je-Vaughn Watson — along with the Jamaican Football Federation representatives.
The group were followed by Marvin Elliott, Jermaine Johnson, Adrian Mariappa, Joel McAnuff, Garath McCleary, Nyron Nosworthy, Damion Stewart and Theo Robinson.
Rodolph Austin and Dane Richards were the third group arrivals ahead of Omar Daley, Dwayne Miller, Jason Morrison, Demar Phillips and Tramaine Stewart.
Wednesday’s tie kicks off the first of 10 matches for the Boyz in the final round with all six nations — Costa Rica, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama — vying for a place in the 2014 FIFA World Cup Finals in Brazil.
When the Boyz qualified for their sole World Cup final appearance — France 1998 — as underdogs, the other CONCACAF countries did not consider the Jamaicans as a serious threat. However, attitudes have altered towards the Boyz and their ability to drum out impressive results, which Whitmore's troops showed at times in reaching this final phase.
The CONCACAF campaign concludes in October, with the top three sides in the table automatically qualifying for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Finals. The fourth-placed nation progresses to a two-legged play-off against the Oceania region champions in November.
If the Boyz can continue their impressive World Cup qualifying campaign, especially on home turf in Kingston, then Whitmore's squad truly have a real shot of reaching the World Cup Finals for only the second time.
The National Stadium in Kingston, known as 'The Office' due to such solid home results, plays host to the Boyz when they tackle the group's minnows Panama. The tie is due to be played on 22 March but this waiting for confirmation.
The Boyz then return to the road for a clash against Costa Rica on 23 March (4am GMT) at the Estadio Ricardo Saprissa Ayma Stadium in San Jose.
CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying final round matches in February and March:
6 February (9pm GMT): Honduras v USA
7 February (2am GMT): Panama v Costa Rica
7 February (2.30am GMT): Mexico v Jamaica
TBC: Jamaica v Panama
22 March (11pm GMT): Honduras v Mexico
23 March (4am GMT): USA v Costa Rica
TBC: Panama v Honduras
27 March (4am GMT): Costa Rica v Jamaica
27 March (4.30am GMT): Mexico v USA