Schafer: Jamaica players “gave heart for country”

Jamaica head coach Winfried Schafer (right) shakes hands with Mexico manager Miguel Herrera after the CONCACAF Gold Cup final on July 26, 2015, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo: Mexsport

PHILADELPHIA -- Jamaica head coach Winfried Schafer sounded more like the victor than the vanquished after his team lost in the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup final Sunday night.

"For me, this is not silver, this is gold," he said after Mexico registered a 3-1 win at Lincoln Financial Field. "Nobody gave us a chance, this team...coming to the final. It was very, very hard work. Congratulations. I am very proud to be the coach of this team."

Though the Reggae Boyz might not have been the championship team, they certainly became the team of the tournament, playing smartly on both sides of the ball to finish with a 4W-1D-1L record.

Many observers felt it was the best Jamaican side since the one that competed in the 1998 FIFA World Cup.

“It was a small group that believed we could come in the final," Schafer commented. "I was very, very happy about these players from one to 22. The team had motivation. I am a long time coach. I have never seen this spirit in a team.

“These players gave heart for this country, for this island. Nobody understands what the players are doing for this country."

As far as the future goes, the current Caribbean champion will face several major challenges in World Cup Qualifying. First, is a third-round showdown with Nicaragua, contesting two games between August 31 and September 8.

If that series is navigated successfully, a four-team, fourth-round group awaits; one that is considered the most difficult of three crafted through Saturday’s draw. Costa Rica (quarterfinals, 2014 FIFA World Cup), Panama (third place, 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup) and either Haiti (quarterfinals, 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup) or Grenada will provide the stiff opposition. Only two of those teams will advance to the Hexagonal.

"I hope we can go into this group," remarked Schafer. "It the best group in the tournament, very, very difficult."