Getting ready


Getting ready

Under-20 Girlz put finishing touches on World Cup qualifying preparation

Observer staff reporter

Friday, February 21, 2020

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Despite a 1-4 loss to Caribbean rivals Haiti in a friendly contest on Wednesday, Jamaica's young Reggae Girlz Head Coach Xavier Gilbert believes all is gradually coming together for his team, as they gear up for action in the Concacaf Women's Under-20 Championship in the Dominican Republic.

While their chance of progressing from group play is highly rated, Gilbert is taking nothing for granted in covering all bases, and as such, welcomed the fixture against the Haitians, which served its purpose in whetting the appetites of his players for competition.

Gilbert and his 20-member unit are currently putting the final pieces in place at a one-week camp in the host nation, where they spruced up preparations for Group E World Cup qualifying action against Guatemala tomorrow at 12:00 pm Jamaica time.

The Jamaicans will then tackle El Salvador on Monday, before closing group play against powerhouse Canada on Wednesday. All games will be played at the Estadio Panamericano in San Cristobal.

On paper, Canada seem to be the young Reggae Girlz's biggest threat and Gilbert is aware that the Guatemalans and the Salvadorans will also prove a handful, despite those teams being more difficult to assess.

“The camp has gone well so far; the girls are adapting and gelling nicely and the game against Haiti was a good exercise for the players to get their feet wet, especially for the new players.

“So, they know what is expected and required of them in this tournament; there is still some work to do and we intend to do our best in that regard and make the necessary adjustments as we go along,” Gilbert told the Jamaica Observer from the team's base in the Spanish-speaking Caribbean nation yesterday.

“The team's confidence is growing and we see it getting better every day and that is all we can ask for as a staff and we are pretty pleased with what we have seen so far. So, we won't be taking them for granted and will be putting our best foot forward when that game comes and we are hopeful that all will work out and we get the desired results,” he added.

Gilbert, who was recently reinstated to the helm of the programme, following Lorne Donaldson's resignation, and his assistant Tashana Vincent and advisor Hubert Busby are not for a second doubting that they have a huge task on hand to secure one of three spots from these qualifiers.

And despite the tardiness in their preparation, Gilbert is sure that his girls possess the tools to match strides with their more fancied rivals in the hunt for an historic berth at the Fifa Women's Under-20 World Cup.

The experienced senior Reggae Girl Jody Brown is now expected to lead the charge, as Olufolasade Adamolekun will be absent due to school obligations.

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.

Brown, Gayle and Sydoney Clarke were expected to join the team yesterday.

“We have a fairly mature squad, in terms of players who have been here [at this level] before, and we are relying on those to bring their A game to the team to ensure that they play well.

“We had two players — Lauren Reid and Jordyn Bartholomew — with niggling injuries, so they were rested from the Haiti game. But things are picking up and we are very optimistic about our chances to first advance out of the group,” Gilbert noted.

“But 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 ended.

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 March 8 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.

Squad: Nevillegail Able (Waterhouse FC), Tacia Austin (UWI FC), Lacey-Ann Murray (Waterhouse FC), Jody Brown (Montverde Academy), Sherice Clarke (Louisiana State University Eunice), Gabrielle Gayle (Dayton State College), Sydoney Clarke (Monroe University), Tayleur Little (Post University), Malia Atkins (Real Colorado), Jordyn Bartholomew (Concord Fire), Lauren Reid (Real Colorado), Ella Dennis (Alcorn State University), Milan Dewkinandan (Grambling State University), Marlee Fray (University Of Central Florida), Peyton McNamara (Connecticut FC), Chantelle Parker (Oakville Blue Devils FC), Jaden Roberts (Rice University), Gabrielle Scarlett (Weston FC), Alexia Spencer (Richard Bland College Of William and Mary), Ciara Whitely (Mercer University)

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