Coach says underprepared U-20 Boyz delivered above expectations

By Sean Williams

Monday, November 12, 2018

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Though their dream of going off to the World Cup has gone up in smokes, Jamaica's Under-20 Reggae Boyz have no reason why they should not walk with their heads held high.

The fact is they defied the odds even though they fell short of their goal, for this was an ill-prepared team that was given little chance to succeed. In many people's eyes, they overachieved, all things considered.

On their surprise run, they finished their preliminary Group B of the Concacaf Under-20 Championship unbeaten and tied on points with the zone's winners Mexico (13 points).

The Young Boyz fell short on goal difference in a qualifying format which allows only the six group winners to go through to the business phase of the World Cup qualifiers being held at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida.

Mexico advanced courtesy of a healthier goal difference of plus-29 to Jamaica's plus-21, for meaningless second place.

In Saturday's final group match, Jamaica — desperate for goals and trailing Mexico by nine — went out hard and fast against French-speaking Saint Martin to win 11-0.

But Mexico, who entered the final match against Aruba in the driver's seat, blitzed their opponents 10-0 to put the argument to rest.

“I must congratulate the boys because they did extremely well as a lot of people never expected them to even win a game, and at the end of this round we and Mexico ended up on the same number of points, so what these boys did was incredible and we can only build on that going forward,” said interim coach, Jerome Waite.

The assistant Senior Reggae Boyz coach paid tribute to the Young Boyz for the first-half onslaught, but admitted the second stanza did not necessarily go to plan.

“In the first half, the target was to score between seven to 10 goals, and in a way they achieved the goal because they got seven. In the second half we were expecting a little bit more, but at times some complacency kicked in and some players tended to want to handle the ball too long, but we still have to give them credit,” said Waite.

The Arnett Gardens FC coach said what the lads achieved when one puts the campaign into context, is nothing short of a miracle.

“I must tell you that I wasn't even familiar with the players and their names, but what they did in the first game is amazing because they didn't know what kind of person the coach is… but the things we plan they (players) made sure they applied themselves very early.

“One of the things in the first training session was to see how best we can get them to concentrate as a defensive unit, but I must say they passed that with 'A' marks, and from there on we realised we had to focus more on the offensive side, because the defensive unit really stood tall throughout the competition.” Waite told the Jamaica Observer on Sunday night.

“It makes me wonder if the preparation started out a little earlier for this unit, if perhaps it would be a different ball game, when you look at the first game where we missed up to 12 chances and we continued throughout the tournament missing chances, although we scored so many,” he reasoned.

Waite believes that the character, the fearlessness, the grasp of the game that many of the players exhibited was a clear indication that within the squad are individuals with bright prospects.

“I expect the federation to keep these players together as I think more than individuals, it is a good unit and certainly one for the future…we wouldn't want a situation for them to get lost in the system,” he noted.

In their 11-0 thrashing of Saint Martin, Nicque Daley led Jamaica's scoring with four goals (20th, 29th, 39th, 53rd minutes), while Leonardo Jibbison (16th, 27th) and Tyreek Magee (17th, 83rd) had braces. Scoring a goal each were Jamoi Topey (7th), Ricardo McIntosh (72nd) and Maliek Howell (88th).

In their previous Group B matches, Jamaica had defeated Grenada 1-0, Nicaragua 3-0, blew away Aruba 7-1 and drew 2-2 with Mexico.

The 2018 edition of the Concacaf Under-20 World Cup-qualifying tournament is featuring a record number of 34 teams. Unlike the previous format, which included regional qualifiers in the Caribbean and Central America and one final championship, this year's redesigned competition ensures that all the participating teams have access to play more top-level football matches.

After the group phase, the six group winners will advance to the Qualification Stage where they will be divided into two groups of three teams. The two group winners plus the second-place finishers of the Qualification Stage will qualify for the FIFA U-20 World Cup Poland 2019. Additionally, the two group winners will advance to the tournament's final to determine the regional champion.

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