Winger blogs via 5mag from Copa AmericaLast summer, Royals winger Garath McCleary put finger to keyboard to keep us all up to date with his Copa America adventure out in Chile, via a blog written with 5mag.
And the Jamaican international is back out on Copa America duty with the Centenario tournament kicking off on Friday in the United States. He played a key part in a friendly win over last year's winners Chile last week and he has again begun to diarise his international experience with the Reggae Boyz at 5mag.co again.
"I’m back for another instalment of #GmacCopaDiary looking at my time leading up to and during Jamaica’s participation in the competition," he began. "We’re entering this competition as the underdogs (once again) and will be trying surprise a few of the powerhouses in world football."
"A majority of the British-based players myself, Jobi McAnuff (Leyton Orient), Clayton Donaldson (Birmingham City), Joel Grant (Exeter City), and Lee Williamson (Blackburn Rovers), finished their season way back on the 7th of May so it’s important to try and keep your fitness levels to the optimum level without playing games."
The squad met up on Wednesday 25th May, flying out from Heathrow at 8.40am and amongst the group was former Royals defender Adrian Mariappa who had just missed out on an FA Cup win against Manchester United. Another former Royal, Michael Hector, missed his scheduled flight due to some traffic chaos on the M25 accoerding to our wing wizards' first instalment on 5mag.
A long journey took McCleary on to Santiago and then Vina Del Mar, where he would prepare for the friendly against Alexis Sanchez's Chileans. 30hours of travelling and GMac had landed!
"With our flights out of the way, the first thing we all did was go to a local gym to get the cobwebs out after a long flight. It was a light session which consisted of a spin, stretching and some movement prep. The game against Chile was the next day so straight back to the hotel for a nap then later on that day we had a sharp session, I won’t lie, it was pretty hard considering."
"The day dragged, but finally we reached the stadium at 5.30pm for a 7.30pm kick off," he continues. "Onto the game we had to be aware of their danger men, even though they were missing Bravo (Barcelona) and Vidal (Bayern Munich) they still had Sanchez, Vargas and Fernandez to name a few.
"Being honest, the first half was the best I think we’ve played as a team throughout my time for the ReggaeBoyz. We defended solidly, soaked up pressure and broke with speed and intent.
"We had many clear cut chances in the first half and could’ve been 2 maybe 3 nil up before half time. It was nice to get an assist after good build up play down the right cutting the ball back across goal for Clayton Donaldson to finish.
"The second half was a different game where maybe we were sitting back a little more than we needed to invited large amounts of pressure from the Chileans - but considering the flights the day before it was maybe to be expected."
A 2-1 win and Jamaica had some silverware to celebrate - "The reason for the cup was because it was Caribbean Champions vs the South American champions," McCleary explained.
"This was a great victory but it’ll count for nothing if the same work rate and application isn’t applied in the competition. This is the performance we will try to replicate each game."
And he had partiucular praise for a man he met at Wembley a little more than a year ago, when the Royals faced Arsenal in the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley!
"I’ve played against some of the best attacking players in the Premier League - from Suarez, Rooney, Aguero to hands down the best player ever to grace the game, Lionel Messi (in my opinion). But for a performance, Alexis Sanchez is the best I’ve faced.
"A player that could pick up a ball (on more than one occasion I’ll state) and from inside their own half, at full speed change direction at the same pace and weave through 4-5 players, continuous running with and without the ball, attacking and defending. His high intensity stats must be through the roof
"A good way to finish the night was to get some memorabilia and for me it was fitting it was his shirt. Even though I’m a player I’m still a fan of football..."
You can follow Garath's blogs in full online with 5mag or by following McCleary on twitter @gmccleary12