Royals winger relishing Copa America experienceChile kicked off the Copa America tournament with a win over Ecuador last night and Jamaica's campaign is only a day away now. Royals winger Garath McCleary is raring to go.
"When the coach told us we were going to be picked to play in the Copa América I felt so much pride, especially considering that is the first time that any Caribbean nation will be competing in the tournament," McCleary told the official Copa America website earlier this week.
"I think it’s going to be really tough, but it’s a really great opportunity to pit our wits against some of the best teams in the world.
"Towards the end of the last World Cup qualifiers we were already under Winfried Schäfer and he went on to lead us to the Caribbean Cup, and we have kept the core of a very good squad.
"Hopefully we can all stay together for a long time and continue to gel. Things are looking up for Jamaican football and hopefully we can show exactly what we can do on a stage as big as the Copa América. We will be hoping to at least get past the group stage.
McCleary pitted his wits against Arsenal's Alexis Sanchez at Wembley in a Reading shirt and he could meet Sahchez's Chile later in the tournament. But first, Jamaica have the small matter of trying to escape from Group B and getting past Uruguay, Paraguay and Lionel Messi's Argentina!
"He’s the very best in the world. I’ve had him at no.1 for many years," McCleary said. "He’s at the very top of his game right now and it will be fantastic to go up against him.
"But, of course, we have to worry about others too. There are so many great players in that team: Agüero, Di María, Higuaín. They’ve got a fantastic squad.
"All the teams in the Copa América have top players. Cavani is another fantastic player. We’ve seen a lot of him in the Champions League, and we know that Paraguay have a very good squad too.
"Jamaica are not going to just to make up the numbers. We want to get some points on the board. – we just have to ensure we perform to the best of our ability and hope to get some points.
"We just have to go into every game without any fear. And if we play like we can, then I’m sure we can pull off a few upsets."
Under the guidance of Winfried Schafer, McCleary is sure Jamaica can achieve big things. "He’s made a real impact. He came in on his own, too, and sought the help of some local coaches. He has done really well. He’s very passionate and very dedicated to his job.
"He’s also brought different formations to us. There are a few shapes that we are now very well accustomed to. He’s brought more than just dedication to the cause – he’s brought a wealth of coaching knowledge too.
"If we go to Copa América and do what we do on the training field, anything’s possible."