U-17 Reggae Boyz kick off World Cup qualifiers today
A confident Jamaican Under-17 football team will kick-start their 2015 FIFA World Cup hopes against US Virgin Islands in the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) Qualifiers at the Anthony Spaulding Sports Complex starting at 7:00 pm today.
In the other Group One game at 4:00 pm, Guadeloupe tackle Cayman Islands in a group where only the winner will automatically qualify for the final round set for Haiti in late-September.
The final qualifiers will be made up of eight teams consisting of the five group winners -- the host Haiti and the two best runner-up teams from all the groups. Cuba, Martinique and Barbados have already qualified from their groups.
Jamaica's head coach Andrew Edwards is cautiously optimistic about the young Reggae Boyz securing top spot in what will be a long journey to the World Cup next year.
"We have had a very good preparation. The physical conditioning is good, the technical and tactical understanding is at a good level. We are going into this tournament with a good deal of positivity and the expectation is to do well and come out of the group at the top," Edwards told the Jamaica Observer yesterday.
"Our goal is to win the group and that's what we are working towards. We are not going to lower our expectations, but despite all of that we recognise that the other teams are coming with similar ambitions and therefore it will not be a cake walk. So we will have to go out there and work to achieve it," he noted.
"We know very little about the opponents, so we have to start each game, certainly the first one, with some amount of caution while trying to get onto the front foot as quickly as possible," said Edwards.
The former St Elizabeth Technical High School (STETHS) coach, who recently returned home from his coaching course in Germany, noted that he will have the opportunity to scout out the other two teams in the curtain-raiser.
Despite not knowing much about the opponents, Edwards wants to trust their preparation and quality to navigate them through.
Eight players from Jamaica's Under-15 team that did poorly at the CONCACAF Under-15 Championship last year in the Cayman Islands are in this squad, but Edwards believes these players are better for the experience.
Said Edwards: "This competition last year was a major disappointment, but that's behind us. We have eight players from that tournament in this current group and we are focussing on what we have now and not worrying about last year."
He continued: "We recognise that Cayman finished third in that tournament and, if we follow that, those players would have made the progression; then they supposedly will be a formidable threat. At the end of the day football is not played in the past as it is in the present.
"We accept that we are in a competition and football across the world is levelling, so the supremacy that we once had is no longer the case," Edwards added.
Jamaica will play Cayman Islands on Monday, before concluding their group match against Guadeloupe on Wednesday.