Home pride at stake as Jamaica face Antigua in friendly
Reggae Boyz Shaun Francis (right) about to shoot as teammate Oneil Fisher comes across to block during a training session at the JFF/Captain Horace Burrell Centre of Excellence on Thursday.
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KINGSTON.- Jamaica tackle Antigua and Barbuda in a friendly international in Kingston on Sunday, the first home match for the Reggae Boyz in over a year.

The game, which launches  the home team's Concacaf Nations League qualifying preparation, will be played at the storied cricket ground, Sabina Park. Kick off is at 5:00 pm Jamaica time.

Jamaica, ranked 49th  by FIFA and sixth on Concacaf’s new ranking index, last played at home on November 13, 2016, in a Caribbean Cup qualifying match against Suriname at the National Stadium. The Boyz won that game 1-0.

“Every game is important  and the Antigua game is of no less… this is the start of our preparation going into the Nations League comes September and we want to give a good account of ourselves,” said Jamaica coach, Theodore Whitmore.

As far as the draw  for the Concacaf Nations League goes, the France ‘98 World Cup star told concacaf.com that he has no issues at all.

“We welcome the draw  and we have four teams to play in Cayman, Bonaire, El Salvador and Suriname and we intend to give it our best shot. Having made it to the finals of the 2015 and 2017 Gold Cup, I don’t think anybody will want to take us lightly, so we have to prepare ourselves physically and mentally to go out there and face our opponents,” Whitmore shared.

Jamaica captain, goalkeeper Andre Blake, believes it’s important for the number one ranked Caribbean side to give a good account of themselves in front of the home support.

“We haven’t been  home in a while and I know the fans expect us to win, but it won’t be an easy game and Antigua will be coming as they have good players, but once we approach the game with the right mentality, we should be fine,” said the Philadelphia Union star.

Jamaica’s squad is made up of mainly local-based players, but has been reinforced with the inclusion of USA-based Blake, defenders Kemar Lawrence (New York Red Bulls), Shaun Francis (Louisville FC), Oneil Fisher (DC United), midfielder Je-Vaughn Watson (New England Revolution), strikers Dane Kelly (DC United) and Romario Williams (Atlanta United FC).

The Boyz’s last assignment  was a friendly international against World Cup-bound South Korea in Antalya, Turkey, on January 30. That game drew 2-2.

Antigua, who has  St Lucia, Bahamas, Martinique and Curacao in the qualifiers of the Nations League, will want to keep their winning momentum going in their preparation exercise, having clipped Bermuda 3-2 in a friendly at home on Wednesday.

They have strengthened  their squad with the inclusion of eight overseas-based. They are goalkeeper Brentto Muhammad (Tindastoll FC); defenders Zaine Francis-Angol (AFC Fylde FC), Daniel Bowry (Charlton Athletic FC), Luther James-Wildin (Nuneaton Town FC) and Mahlon Romeo (Millwall  FC); midfielders: Calaum Martin (Newport Town FC), Joshua Parker (Gillingham FC); and Forward Myles Weston (Ebbsfleet FC).

Antigua’s Benna Boyz, ranked 139th by FIFA and 20th in Concacaf, will next face Dominica in another friendly on Sunday, April 1.