The play Khadija Shaw (left) and Felicia Davidson (right) is a key reason why Jamaica is 2-0-0 thus far at the2013 CONCACAF Women's Under-17 Championship. (Photo: Mexsport)
MONTEGO BAY, Jamaica --- Head coach of Jamaica’s Young Reggae Girlz Merron Gordon has urged his charges to remain focused and to dream big as they prepare for the semifinals of the CONCACAF Women’s Under-17 Championship.
Having booked a spot in the knockout stage of the World Cup-qualifying tournament with a game to spare, Gordon’s girls now face the daunting prospects of a showdown with one of the confederation’s two powerhouses — the United States or Canada from Group B.
With opposition of that size and reputation, the Jamaican coach has sought the intervention of his 12th Man above to lead his team by all opponents and to the promised land.
“My goal is to go to Costa Rica, and anyone of them that comes we will have to face them and I know God will take care of that for me,” he said. “I just want my girls to stay focused and to keep dreaming big and God will take care of the rest.”
Jamaica, the Group A leader of the eight-nation tournament, secured its berth to the final four on Friday by blanking Haiti, 3-0.
Fifteen-year-old Jessica Johnson’s sweet double in the 53rd and 72nd minutes, plus an eighth-minute opener from Asia Lee-Fatt, propelled the host to a comfortable win and atop the points table with six.
In their curtain-raiser, the Young Girlz had shutout El Salvador 2-0.
But the job is far from complete as Gordon now targets topping the group, which his girls aim to do with a meeting with Mexico at the Montego Bay Sports Complex’s Catherine Hall Stadium on Sunday evening.
“As I have said before, what I want now is to top the group and get the girls in a good mood for the other games,” he said. “I am very happy for the girls that we are in the semi-finals, but we have one more hurdle to clear and then we can think about going to Costa Rica after that.”
With the first-match blushes apparently behind them, a sense of mission and confidence has swelled within the ranks, the coach points out.
“I like the way the girls have been looking;” noted Gordon. “They have not been overly excited as they seem to be very focused, and that was evident after they beat a strong Haitian team 3-0, they just didn’t let that get to their heads.”
The progression of the team, he claims, spells for success.
“I think they are looking more mature as the competition progresses, so by the time we reach that possible play-off spot for Costa Rica, I think we would have had a well-oiled machine,” said Gordon, a considered veteran of the women’s game in Jamaica, having conditioned championship school teams.
In Friday’s triumph over neighbor Haiti, the Jamaican tactician had mixed feelings about the game itself.
“The girls have done a lot of team organization in terms of defense, but in terms of ball possession, last night was not as good as the first game,” Gordon argued.
The coach was full of praise for Johnson, who joined Lee-Fatt as another Jamaican scoring a double in the tournament.
“Prior to the competition Jessica (Johnson) is always a player that I am thinking off, and she was a member of that strong Under-20 team we had in Kingston the other day, so we were expecting to get some goals from her and she started her campaign last night (Friday) with some goals, so hopefully she can continue that,” expressed Gordon.
“She’s a hard worker, skillful player and goal-scorer and I just hope she continues on that path.”
The two finalists of the CONCACAF Women's Under-17 Championship will advance to the FIFA U0-17 Women’s World Cup in Costa Rica in March, 2014.