The Reggae Boyz of Jamaica, fresh from performing competitively in the Copa America, take on the CONCACAF Gold Cup's most successful team when they meet Mexico in Philadelphia on Monday morning. Kicking off just after midnight, El Salvador's Joel Aguilar referees an encounter of David and Goliath proportions as the stuttering Tricolor take on the bombastic Jamaica.
Reading's interest in the game comes via winger Garath McCleary and centre-back Michael Hector, both of which are expected to continue in their starting berths in the tournament centrepiece. Alongside former Royals Jobi McAnuff and Adrian Mariappa, Reading's Reggae Boyz have proved their class on the international stage this summer. The Royals' Boyz have been talking to Jamaica Observer:
"We have been underdogs from the very beginning and there are a lot people who didn't believe that we would get this far, but we are here.
"We have been mostly good and we have been superb in every game we played, and hopefully we can do that again on Sunday.
"I think we will go the whole way, and I have said that from the beginning. The US have had big teams in the past, and no one expects us to be in the final. Anything is possible; we believe it and we dream it."
"I play for Reading, but I play for Jamaica as a country and as a team. People in England might think Jamaica is not as big as they think they are; if we do well in big tournaments, people will take notice.
"For me it's just about putting Jamaica back on the map (in football) as it's a massive sporting country, and down the road we should be qualifying for the World Cup.
"The important thing is that we got the win, defeating America for the first time on their patch, and that was another big step forward as a team and country, so the only way for Jamaica now is up.
"We are just keeping positive, [winning the Gold Cup] would mean the world to me as all my family members from Jamaica are now living in London, so to bring a medal back home would obviously mean a lot and to my family which is a big part of me.
"I am happy with my performance, but the main thing is that the team is winning."
La Verde's run to the Gold Cup final has been far from secure. An opening day 6-0 win over Cuba failed to set the tone and a goalless draw with Guatemala was followed up by a dramatic to-and-fro eight-goal thriller with Trinidad & Tobago; the minnows stealing a 93rd minute draw. In the knockout stages Mexico have required last-gasp goals and extra-time to see off World Cup quarter-finalists Costa Rica, and Panama.
A spot-kick in the final minute of extra-time against Costa Rica was enough in the quarters, while two penalties with the clock in triple figures were needed to down the Panamanians. The 100th minute penalty in normal time came from captain Andres Guardado before the winger did the same from the spot in extra-time.
Nine-time winners Mexico last won the title in 2011 and have set out to re-claim the crown with a 5-3-2 formation. Striker Oribe Peralta will lead the line without suspended partner Carlos Vela, but it's five-goal PSV veteran Guardadowho leads by example, and is fit for the final after injury worries. The competent defence shall remain unchanged but Dos Santos's Jonathan and Giovani are doubts. High expectations placed on coach Miguel Herrera have not been met, and yet they remain favourites.
The Reggae Boyz impressively topped Group B, taking a point off Costa Rica on matchday one before late 1-0 wins over Canada and El Salvador, thanks to a Garath McCleary goal, sealed qualification. The rewards of which involved a favourable tie against Haiti in the quarter-finals, where a single-goal was again enough to qualify for the next round. Giles Barnes notched that winner and tops the scoring chart with the Royals winger McCleary on two goals, having also scored against hosts USA in the semi-final.
Going under the radar and spreading the workload across the team has been Jamaica's strength in the Gold Cup thus far, although that changed when meeting the USMNT in Atlanta. Five different scorers in just five games is a testament to their qualities as a team, the latest being Vancouver Whitecaps forward opening the scoring in the 2-1 dispatch of USA on Wednesday night.
Mattocks' nod to start that game was evidence of successful tinkering in the consistent 4-4-2 formation set out by coach Winfried Schafer. Simon Dawkins had started alongside main man Barnes for the majority of the tournament but is set to miss out on the final thanks to Mattocks' contribution. Reading's McCleary has been a constant performer on the right-flank while Hector has been settled in defence alongside the experienced Wes Morgan, having made his first appearance against El Salvador from the bench.
Ranked number 76 in the world, the Reggae Boyz have no fresh injury concerns. First-choice goalkeeper Dwayne Miller's injury in the group stage has been offset by Ryan Thompson's excellent form in the latter stages.
Mexico: Ochoa, Layun, Alanis, Rodriguez, Reyes, Aguilar, Guardado, Esquivel, Herrera, Peralta, Orozco.
Jamaica: Thompson, Lawrence, Morgan, Hector, Mariappa, McAnuff, Austin, Watson, McCleary, Barnes, Mattocks.
BT Sport 2, Bet365 (online)
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