No room for complacency!

Menzies will be leaving nothing to chance in upcoming Olympic qualifying campaign

Observer staff reporter

Thursday, August 15, 2019

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On paper, Jamaica's senior Reggae Girlz' path to the final round of Olympic Qualifiers appears a safe bet.

But upon reflection of what transpired with their Under-23 male counterparts, who were also heavily favoured to topple Caribbean rivals, Head coach Hue Menzies is leaving nothing to chance.

Though their Concacaf Women's Olympic Caribbean Qualifiers is still well over a month away, Menzies, like any visionary leader, has already began plotting a course towards a successful campaign with the hope of achieving another remarkable feat.

Like their recent Fifa Women's World Cup appearance, qualification to the 2020 Games in Tokyo, Japan, would again see Menzies and his Reggae Girlz team etching their names in the annals of Jamaica's sporting history.

However, to get there, they first have to navigate their way through September 30 to October 8 Caribbean phase, where only the three group winners will advance to the final round.

Jamaica will play host of Group B featuring Cuba, Saint Lucia, Barbados, and United States Virgin Islands.

Group A, the lone six-team group, comprises Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, Dominican Republic, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Antigua and Barbuda, and Aruba, while Haiti, Puerto Rico, Suriname, Dominica, and Grenada will contest Group C.

Despite being back on home soil and facing Caribbean opponents for the first time since their historic showing at the Fifa Women's World Cup in France, Menzies is expecting no walk in the park.

“We cannot underestimate anybody right now because clearly we have an 'X' on our backs right now when it comes to the Caribbean, so we kind of checked ourselves and we know that we are in a position where we are going to get the best out of the opponents.

“So we can't be too complacent about it, and with that said, we are hoping that everybody comes in with a clear head to get after it because we feel like we have a quality group of players that can make a good run to qualify for the Olympics,” Menzies told the Jamaica Observer.

“That (getting to the Olympics) is our objective, but obviously we have to take it a game at a time. Playing in Jamaica is a plus for us, I don't think we have lost a game in front of our home crowd for the last year or so, so we are getting ready to come back home and play in front of our crowd and have that confidence to win those games and get to the next round,” he added.

While their campaign at the recently concluded 18th Pan American Games in Lima, Peru was nothing to write home about, Menzies was grateful for the opportunity to assess players, similar to that of the Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Games in Colombia last year, which served as a valuable component in their World Cup selection process.

Recollecting their performances at the games, Menzies again viewed the outcome as part and parcel of building and sustaining a competitive pool of players beyond the current cycle.

The fairly youthful Jamaican squad suffered 0-2 scorelines to Mexico and Colombia followed by a 1-3 loss to Paraguay in Group A play, before defeating Peru 1-0 in the seventh-place play-off.

Menzies could again be without some of his more established players for the Caribbean phase of Olympic qualifying.

“Obviously we got a lot of inspiration from the last result, but at the end of the day, we went there to get some experience and I think we accomplished that because we got a good assessment of where some of these players are and there will be a couple of them that will make that Olympic squad for sure.

“That is what you want in your programme because it's not about this year or next year, it's about years to come because you want to be able to have players coming through and gaining valuable experience and that's a critical part of the programme,” Menzies reasoned.

He continued: “When we went to the World Cup Mireya Grey only played one game, so we can't be going to these big events against top quality players and teams with players with limited international experience.

“So, we are happy that we were able to be at the Pan Am Games to get some of the younger players to gather that experience, which then makes our jobs a little bit harder to make selections and that's what we want.”

That said, the tactician also welcomed the opportunity to partner with the Jamaica Olympic Association (JOA) and is optimistic that the body will also assist in their Olympic preparation, like they did with the Under-23 Reggae Boyz team.

“We wouldn't be able to get that experience if it wasn't for the JOA and we are looking to get them on board to help us get quality games during the Olympic campaign.

“We did have a meeting and we talked about the collaboration and what can happen so that we can secure the best possible preparation phase for these games, but I think we are going to extend that so hopefully something can come out of it,” Menzies noted.

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