For an unheralded, slightly older prospect who's yet to actually play for Chelsea, Michael Hector is getting more than his fair share of exposure, and not just in terms of coverage on Chelsea official or special attention afforded by Guus Hiddink, but in terms of facing some of the best players for the second summer in a row.
Last year, Jamaica were the second invited team at Copa America (after Japan and China declined), but having been drawn into a very tough group with Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay, left the competition without a single win or a single goal scored. That said, three 1-0 defeats to the perennial South American powerhouses is nothing to be too ashamed about, and the Reggae Boyz built on those performances for a surprise 2nd place at the Gold Cup later summer.
"My debut was our first game of the tournament. It was against Uruguay and it was obviously tough but marking Cavani was a great experience. We played Paraguay after that and lost 1-0 again but we really felt we could have got a result in those games."
"Then playing against Messi was a dream come true. When he had the ball, the movement around him was electric because everybody believed he could find them. One minute you're watching him on TV, amazed at what he can do, and the next you're the one trying to stop him. And we did, kind of! He didn't score or get an assist which was good. It was a tough group, shown by the fact Argentina got to the final, Paraguay the semi-finals and Uruguay the quarters, but overall we performed well. We just didn't get the right results."
Perhaps it was some of those performances that convinced the Chelsea brass to acquire the well-travelled Reading center back. Perhaps it was something else. Either way, Hector, once again part of the Jamaica squad that's set to compete at this summer's special edition of the Copa America, is looking forward to the challenge of once again facing the likes of Edinson Cavani and Chicharito Hernandez.
"It's good to play in that kind of environment, with that hostility. That's where you want to be playing. You don't want to play in front of small crowds, you want to test yourself and see if you have got what it takes to play on the big stage. The Copa America is a massive tournament in that part of the world. The Euros will be going on at the same time and some of my mates are saying that's bigger, but some of the very best players in the world are playing in the Copa America. It's going to be another great occasion."
-Michael Hector; source: Chelsea FC
No one expects much from Jamaica (or Hector himself, if we're being honest), but the 23-year-old will no doubt gain plenty of valuable experience both from the opposition as well as teammates like Leicester City's Wes Morgan. Jamaica's first game is this Sunday against Venezuela, with Mexico and Uruguay to follow next week.