U-17 Boyz finally get chance to test themselves against Americans


Saturday, April 22, 2017

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PANAMA CITY, Panama — It’s the moment of truth.

Jamaica’s Young Reggae Boyz will finally have the chance to truly test their overall state of readiness for their push for World Cup qualification when they take on nemesis USA in their opening Group C game of the CONCACAF Under-17 Championship at the Estadio Maracana today. Match time is 12:30 pm, the same as Jamaica. In the other group fixture of a double-header, Mexico will go up against El Salvador at 3:00 pm.

Jamaica head coach Andrew Edwards came across a relieved man yesterday, seemingly anxious to bear witness of the end result of a wide-ranging three-month residential camp.

"Personally, I am feeling a bit relaxed now as you know you have worked to get to this point. it’s just about going out and putting it all on show now, and I trust and hope that the boys are feeling the same way," he said as he lounged in the reception area of the Aloft Panama, the team’s hotel.

Still fresh on Edwards’ mind and that of the players is the blowout (3-0 and 4-0) by the USA in a two-match friendly series in Kingston last November.

The coach thinks the dynamics between then and now have changed, therefore the USA should not expect today’s match-up to be a Sunday stroll. Nor should they be thinking the gap between themselves and Jamaica is as wide as the Panama Canal itself.

Edwards certainly doesn’t think so.

"Certainly, the team has grown since those games in November, and I said repeatedly that those games came at an inopportune time for us as we were not able to give of our very best.

"I think that now we have preparation under our belt, as we wouldn’t be able to offer that as a reason anymore and we are looking forward to put on a really good show and one that will give us the victory," Edwards told the Sunday Observer.

But while he is convinced that his players are better prepared for today’s meeting, compared with their last American encounter, Edwards will not allow himself to be led away by the temptation of naivety.

"We do expect the game to be a very difficult one, but it will be eleven versus eleven and we hope it stays that way certainly in our favour. and once it remains that way, we back ourselves to bring the fight to them and try to nullify what they throw at us," Edwards noted.

The name of the game from a Jamaican perspective is "to find a good balance" in the approach play against an opponent that is highly motivated and blessed with superior preparation.

"The pressing game is a very key part of the way we want to play… playing at 12:30 pm at the Maracana on an astro turf will not allow us to play that way the entire game, so we will have to find a good balance.

"The key thing for us is to have a solid defensive base from which we can launch our offensive forays… I think we have to be good defensively, better than we have ever been, and we have to be decisive in our defensive actions as well," Edwards theorises.

In a 4-4-2 formation, Jamaica will go with Tajay Griffiths in goal, with Jamoi Topey and Kimani Gibbons in the heart of defence, while they will be flanked by Damani Osei (left) and Shane Ricketts. In midfield, Jeremy Verley, Akeem Mullings, Jermaine Lyons and Cobi Atkinson will do duties, while Raewin Senior and Kaheem Parris will play ahead of them all.

Meanwhile, USA coach John Hackworth has targeted winning the championship and qualifying for the FIFA Under-17 World Cup slated for India October 6-28.

"For this group of players, it is an opportunity for them to win their first title and progress in their young, budding careers… of course, the first aim is to get to the U-17 FIFA World Cup in India, but in addition to that, winning the CONCACAF U-17 Championship in Panama is the aim.

"I am confident this crop has enough to get off on a good foot against Jamaica and eventually go and win the tournament," he said.

The Americans have built their hopes around three Major League Soccer (MLS) professionals in Chris Durkin (midfielder, DC United) and Atlanta United teammates Chris Goslin (midfielder) and Andrew Carleton (forward).

"The experiences that these players have gained playing in MLS teams, I am sure, will help them develop and make our team better… my hope is that it will rub off on the rest of the team," Hackworth stated.

In results from Friday’s open round of matches, hosts Panama soared to the top of Group A with three points after beating regional rivals Honduras 4-1. In the other match, Curacao shocked Caribbean champions Haiti 1-0 to secure second spot.

In Group B action yesterday, Suriname and Cuba drew 1-1, while Canada and Costa Rica were due to meet in a late contest.

The top two teams from each of the three zones will progress to the Classification Stage, where they will be split into two groups of three. The top four finishers of these play-offs will advance to the World Cup.

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