Sport

Young Boyz oppose Guadeloupe for top spot

…After struggling to overcome Cayman Islands 5-3

BY HOWARD WALKER Observer senior reporter walkerh@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, August 27, 2014    

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JAMAICA'S Under-17 footballers will take on Guadeloupe in their top-of-the-group clash knowing a draw will be good enough to advance to the final round of the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) 2015 FIFA World Cup qualification.

Both Jamaica and Guadeloupe are on six points and they meet at the Anthony Spaulding Sports Complex at 7:00 pm, while the US Virgin Islands and Cayman Islands hunt their first points at 4:00 pm.

The final CFU round of eight is set for Haiti in late September and only the five group winners will automatically qualify along with the two best second-placed teams and the host. Haiti, Barbados, Cuba, Trinidad and Tobago and Martinique have already qualified.

With that in mind, both Jamaica and Guadeloupe will be embroiled in a humdinger to secure the automatic spot and avoid the nervous wait of seeing if they qualify as one of two best second-placed teams.

Jamaica's head coach Andrew Edwards knows the task at hand and the importance of this game and, despite only needing a point to advance, will be hunting the maximum three points.

"Put very simply, we want to win the game. So we coming out to win the game," Edwards told the Jamaica Observer on Monday night.

He continued: "But we want to improve on our play in all departments and again this situation is very important for us because now we can adapt to the situation prior to the start of the game rather than trying to play catch up in the middle of the game."

Edwards explained that their final training session would be used very intelligently to recover the players physically and mentally, then prepare some tactics based on their assessment of the Guadeloupe team over the two games.

"We are confident that will bring us across the line," he added.

Following their 19-0 thrashing of the hapless US Virgin Islands on Saturday, Jamaica had to show a lot of character in coming from two goals down to beat Cayman Islands 5-3 on a rain-soaked outfield on Monday night.

Having watched Guadeloupe whip the US Virgin Islands 5-0 in the curtain-raiser in which Ludovic Fabian Zelateur scored his three-timer in the 26th, 31st and 78th minutes, the sparse crowd was shocked as Cayman Islands raced to a two-goal lead after just seven minutes.

An own goal by Fabian Grant in the fifth minute and a strike from Elijah Seymour set up an enthralling encounter.

"The Caymanians surprised us. They came at us very fast early in the game which was a different approach from the first game against Guadeloupe. It unsettled our defence at the back and you could see the inexperience showed and we got a bit nervy conceding an own goal and then went two nil down from what I consider a very soft goal, as well," said Edwards.

But Jamaica showed a lot of resilience and fought back bravely to level the scores quickly. Promising St George's College player Alex Marshall grabbed the first of his three goals in the 15th minute before Tajea Brown tied the score in the 18th minute. But Cayman once again took the lead in the 25th minute courtesy of a free kick from Zachary Scott.

"But once we clawed our way back to 2-2 the belief grew and the self-confidence grew. But when we went 2-3 down we could see that there was a little drop again. So it was all about managing the situation there and, once we got in half-time at 2-3 down. it was a foregone conclusion," said Edwards.

"We have superior fitness with superior speed and tactically we were going to make the adjustments that counted and the boys responded quite nicely," he added.

Marshall converted a penalty in the 62nd minute to tie the game for the second time before Ajeanie Talbott finally gave Jamaica the lead slotting home from a corner kick in the 74th minute.

Marshall then put the icing on the cake with a fine solo effort in the 90th minute. It was his second three-timer to take his tally to six from two games.

Despite not scoring on Monday, Donovan Dawkins remained the top scorer with seven goals - all against the US Virgin Islands.

"Overall, I thought the experience was very good. The way the Caymanians played, the underfoot conditions, the unfamiliar situation of going behind and all of these things are experiences that will make us stronger going forward," said Edwards.

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