Gilbert quietly optimistic ahead of Fifa Women's Under-20 World Cup qualifiers

Gilbert quietly optimistic ahead of Fifa Women's Under-20 World Cup qualifiers

Observer staff reporter

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

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Having been reinstated to Jamaica's women's football programme, Xavier Gilbert is ready to make the most of the opportunity, which he is hoping will culminate with a historic qualification to the Fifa Women's Under-20 World Cup.

Gilbert, who was an assistant to Lorne Donaldson during the last Under-20 cycle, expressed pleasure at his recent appointment to the head coach post following Donaldson's resignation from the programme.

The decorated Gilbert will be assisted by former Reggae Girlz striker Tashana Vincent for the World Cup qualifying campaign which is scheduled to kick off next Saturday in the Dominican Republic. Hubert Busby is also expected to play a role overseeing the programme.

“It's always an honour to serve your country so I am happy and excited to be back on board and just looking forward to what the immediate future holds as I'm ready to get to work with the talented young players in this programme and serve as best as I can.

“Getting back to coaching a national team is something I've always been interested in and I know it is going to be a great challenge and responsibility, but I am looking forward to it,” Gilbert told the Jamaica Observer.

“I am also looking forward to working with Tashana Vincent. It's good to have her on board; I know Fifa and the Jamaica Football Federation are trying to get as many females involved in coaching, so any information and guidance that I can offer to all the females in coaching, I am happy to do so,” he added.

Gilbert is no stranger to daunting tasks, and as such knows that securing one of three spots from the Concacaf qualifiers will be no mean feat. However, his focus is firmly set on getting over the first hurdle, which is to leave the group stages.

The Jamaicans have been drawn in Group E alongside powerhouse Canada, Guatemala, and El Salvador for the February 22 to March 8 tournament.

The Jamaicans are expected to hold a pre-tournament camp in the host country ahead of the qualifiers, but Gilbert revealed that those plans are yet to be finalised.

“There's a lot of work to do in the short time before qualifying, so I'm looking forward to getting on the field with the players. The pool has got bigger and we have a number of players who have come through the ranks and are overseas on scholarships and those players will be integral to our chances.

“So we want to first get everyone together to start building that camaraderie and cohesiveness to ensure that we will be competitive in this tournament and that is where the pre-tournament camp comes in. We are hopeful that all will work out and we get the desired results,” Gilbert noted.

Jamaica's team is expected to be led by Jody Brown and Olufolasade Adamolekun, who were both a part of the senior Reggae Girlz Fifa Women's World Cup debut appearance in France.

Other key figures in the team are Marlee Fray, Gabrielle Gayle, Sherice Clarke, and Nevillegail Able, all of whom were a part of the previous cycle, which ended in Trinidad and Tobago in 2018.

Meanwhile, American-based fleet-footed winger Shayla Smart and midfielder Giselle Washington, as well as Canadian-based attacking midfielder Ebony Clarke will be absent from the team due to injury.

“So we do have a pool of experienced players who we will be relying on to do the job for us, as the expectation is to apply the expertise and experience at this level to see how far we can get Jamaica,” Gilbert reasoned.

“Our ultimate goal is to qualify for the World Cup and we are aware that it is going to be a tough task. However, we just have to go in and give of our best and see how far it will take us,” the Waterhouse and Excelsior High school tactician added.

Defending champions Mexico, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Puerto Rico will contest Group D, while 2018 beaten finalists United States are set to square off against Honduras, Dominican Republic, and Cuba in Group C. Group F comprises Haiti, Trinidad and Tobago, Panama, and Cayman Islands.

After round-robin play, the top three teams in each group will advance to the knockout stage, joining the four qualifiers — Guyana, St Lucia, St Kitts and Nevis, and Grenada.

The finalists and the third-placed play-off winner will qualify for the World Cup to be hosted by Costa Rica and Panama.

This will be the first ever co-hosting of a Fifa youth tournament, and the second ever co-hosting of a Fifa tournament after the 2002 Fifa World Cup.

Provisional Squad: Nevillegail Able (Waterhouse FC), Olufolasade Adamolekun (University Of Southern California), Malia Atkins (Real Colorado), Tacia Austin (UWI FC), Jordyn Bartholomew (Concord Fire), Jody Brown (Montverde Academy), Sherice Clarke (Louisiana State University Eunice), Sydoney Clarke (Monroe University), Dennis Ella (Alcorn State University), Milan Dewkinandan (Grambling State University), Shaquilla Forbes (Arnett Gardens FC), Marlee Fray (University Of Central Florida), Gabrielle Gayle (Dayton State College), Breon Grant (Unattached), Rochell Gray (Waterhouse FC), Suen Gregory (Cavalier FC), Shania Harris (Waterhouse FC), Chavelle Henry (Waterhouse FC), Javanae Jones (Real Mobay), Tayleur Little (Post University), Peyton McNamara (Connecticut FC), Lacey-Ann Murray (Waterhouse FC), Kelly Nunez (Frasziers' Whip FC), Chantelle Parker (Oakville Blue Devils FC), Monique Perrier (George Washington Comet University), Lauren Reid (Real Colorado), Davia Richards (Excelsior High School), Chris-Ann Roberts (Cavalier FC), Jaden Roberts (Rice University), Christina Salmon (Waterhouse FC), Gabrielle Scarlett (Weston FC), Tiana Schroeter (Waterhouse FC), Alexia Spencer (Richard Bland College Of William and Mary), Ciara Whitely (Mercer University), Alexia Wright (Unattached)

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