The Reggae Boyz of Jamaica will take on Los Llaneros of Venezuela in their first match of the 2016 Copa America Centenario this Sunday at Soldier Field Stadium in Chicago, Illinois. This is the sixth time that both teams are facing off against each other. Jamaica has won twice, lost twice and drawn once against Venezuela. Their most recent match came in March 2015 in a friendly International at the Montego Bay Sports Complex where Jamaica came out winner 2-1 on this occasion. Jamaica’s goals in this match came from Giles Barnes on his debut for Jamaica and Darren Mattocks.
Venezuela are currently ranked 77th in the world and they are ranked 9th out of the 10 teams in the CONMEBOL region. Venezuela has had success in the Copa America tournaments in the past as in 2011 they finished 4th in the tournament. Four years earlier in 2007, they reached the Quarter-finals stage for the first time in their history, so there has been a gradual improvement in their results in Copa America tournaments.
Some key players to keep an eye on for Venezuela are Salomon Rondon, Tomas Rincon and Dani Hernandez. Rondon is a 26 year old striker who plays with West Bromwich Albion in the English Premier League. The 6’1 inch striker has a physically imposing presence and holds the ball well for his fellow teammates to run into space. Rondon will play his 50th match for Venezuela against Jamaica and he has a goal per game ratio of one goal every three games played for his country.
The captain Tomas Rincon is a 28 year old central midfielder who plays with Genoa in Serie A in Italy. Rincon is a hard tackler of the football and he covers a lot of ground in tracking back in defending with his defenders. Rincon is also a threat from set pieces with his crossing ability. He won the Best Player award at the 2011 Copa America tournament.
Dani Hernandez is a 6’5 inch 30 year old goalkeeper for Venezuela who plays with CD Tenerife in the Segunda Division in Spain. Hernandez’s strength is his shot stopping ability and in the 21 matches he has played for Venezuela, 9 of them have been clean sheets.
Despite these abilities of some of the Venezuelan players, the 46th ranked Jamaica also have their strengths and numerous key players looking to help Jamaica secure three points and get one step closer to the Quarter-Finals of the tournament. After Jamaica’s historic victory over Chile 2-1 in Vina del Mar, Jamaica will be oozing with confidence heading into the tournament. One key player for the Jamaicans is the Captain Adrian Mariappa. Adrian Mariappa is close to 40 caps for Jamaica and since the start of 2016 he has won the most aerial duels with 22 of them for Jamaica and the most blocks with 18 of them. With his quick feet and tenacity, he is a key player at the heart of the defence alongside Wes Morgan to remove the sting from the opposition.
In the attacking end for Jamaica, Clayton Donaldson will be looking to carry on where he left off in South America with more goals. The Birmingham City F.C. player is a clinical finisher and is a hard worker who is also willing to drop deep to provide support to his fellow teammates in possession.
For Jamaica to advance to the next round of the Copa America tournament, a victory against Venezuela would be a big step in that direction. And a victory, will provide more momentum in preparation for Mexico and Uruguay later in the tournament.