Khadija Shaw (#11) is expected to be a key performer for Jamaica at the 2014 CONCACAF Women's Under-20 Championship. (Photo: Mexsport)
MIAMI, Florida --- Jamaica is exuding confidence ahead of the 2014 CONCACAF Women’s Under-20 Championship to be staged on idyllic Cayman Islands from January 9-19.
The team is focused on doing one better than its younger compatriots, who lost to Canada in the semifinals of the CONCACAF Women’s Under-17 Championship last month, and qualify for the next August’s FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup.
Despite the Reggae Girlz being drawn into tough Group A, which also consists of perennial powerhouse United States, Costa Rica and Guatemala, head coach Xavier Gilbert remains upbeat that all things are possible.
“I think we have a good chance of qualifying based on the talent and experience in the team,” he said. “We have always been a peripheral team, lying in fourth or fifth in CONCACAF, so with that, plus our talent pool, I think we stand a very good chance of advancing to the top three.”
On October 27, Jamaica demonstrated its credentials by capturing the Caribbean title at home in Kingston with a 1-0 win over Trinidad & Tobago.
“These girls are more experienced as they have played at the CONCACAF level before,” Gilbert noted. “This is the most talented team I have seen since the play-offs in 2006.”
For the 11-day tournament, the USA-based Marlo Sweatman (captain), Toriana Patterson, Nicole Harris, McKenzie Marsh and Alika Keane, as well as the Canada-based duo of Cachet Lue and Oshay Lawes, are expected to figure for Jamaica.
They are anticipated to be adequately complemented by the CFU Under-20 Championship Most Valuable Player Khadija Shaw, plus Trudy Carter and Shantal Bailey.
Though the Jamaicans have not been able to tie down any international practice games, they have embarked on a rigid fitness program and camp in Florida on the eve of the Cayman kick-off.
“We will have some physical work, and those players overseas will follow a training program that we have set for them, and we expect a report from them every week continuously with their physical preparation,” commented Gilbert. “We are also organizing a camp in Florida from January 2 to 7 as I don’t foresee any international warm-up games, but the matches that we will be getting are of high quality in terms of university teams that we feel can provide us with similar situations that we are likely to face in the tournament.”
Jamaica is scheduled to open the CONCACAF tournament against Guatemala in the first game of a doubleheader on January 9 at the Truman Bodden Sports Complex.
“Definitely we want to start the campaign with a win, and all being well, we should get the three points as I believe that we have the talent and experience to pull it off,” expressed Gilbert. “I believe we have the toughest group, but still I think we can finish in the top two and make it to the semifinals and then take it from there.”
Group B will contested by host Cayman Islands, Honduras, Trinidad & Tobago and Mexico.
The top-two teams from each group will progress to the semifinals, with both winners advancing to the World Cup. The third-place play-off match will decide the confederation’s last qualifier.