Jamaica (green jersey) has competed in two FIFA U-17 World Cups and is looking to make it a third in 2017. (Photo: CA-Images)
PANAMA CITY, Panama -- With a place in the next U-17 World Cup in India as their objective, 12 teams discovered the road they’ll need to take in order to get there at Tuesday’s 2017 CONCACAF Under-17 Championship draw.
Jamaica has participated in the FIFA event twice (1999 & 2011) and head coach Andrew Edwards is eager for his team to make a return. The 41-year-old believes good preparation will go a long way towards making that happen, but does admit that the United States, Mexico and El Salvador will provide stiff opposition in Group C.
“It is really a difficult group for Jamaica,” Edwards told CONCACAF.com. “It is really going to be important the way we prepare going forward. The first game (on April 23) is going to be huge against the United States and we need a good start and need to ensure we don’t get beaten.”
An Edwards coached Jamaica U-17 side has never suffered a regulation-time loss to the United States in CONCACAF-tournament play. In 2015, he directed a 1-0 win over the Americans in the group stage and a 0-0 draw in a playoff, only to be subsequently eliminated on penalty kicks, 5-4.
The Jamaicans hosted and fell to the U.S. in a pair of friendlies last month, 3-0 and 4-0. Edwards learned much from those encounters.
“The U.S. is an excellent team with players with good technical ability,” he noted. “Despite the losses to them, we will take heart from the performances and know that it will improve over time. It’s football, we know that once we prepare we can do a good job on the day.
“If we can replicate the performance against the USA like we did in Honduras in 2015, I would be very pleased. It showed that we can beat the best in the region and that’s what we hope to do.”
Edwards, an avid Arsenal supporter, has targeted a specific area on which to focus over the coming months.
“We have to improve our defensive play,” he finished. “That is crucial for us. We have to come with some big time defensive performances to get the results we want against USA, Mexico and El Salvador to advance from our group.”