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Fearless faces! – Confident Girlz ready for tough CONCACAF assignment

Published: February 28, 2012 | 10:54 am
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AS his Under-20 Reggae Girlz prepare to depart the island today for the CONCACAF World Cup qualifying championship in Panama City, head coach Vin Blaine says he’s convinced that he will be leading a team of upbeat individuals.
“Our team meeting after training this morning (yesterday) focused on being positive and believing they can achieve against all odds. I asked them if they knew anything about Canada or Mexico and they said ‘no’. So I pointed out to them that they then cannot be in fear of the unknown,” Blaine said.

He noted that with powerhouses Canada and Mexico, along with Haiti, grouped with the young Reggae Girlz, the perception is that the Jamaicans have little chance of progressing from the preliminary stage against such formidable opponents.
“The team talks have been focused on team unity… the response to training and the attitude of the girls have been positive and encouraging,” said Blaine.
While Jamaican football teams — male and female — have repeatedly faltered at the CONCACAF stage of qualifying for the World Cup, the veteran coach told the Observer that for his female team to clear that hurdle and book a historic World Cup berth, a strategic approach has to be undertaken.
“We will have to ensure that the players understand the permutations of qualifying, with regard to points that we have to accumulate to get us to the semi-finals,” Blaine said.
The Under-20 Girlz leave for Panama without the benefit of international warm-up matches, but Blaine has expressed satisfaction with what he was able to achieve with a five-day camp, which was due to end yesterday with a game against a Sherwin Williams select team.
“The girls have made significant advancement in their tactical approach to the game (as) we worked on the areas of weakness in the sessions after our first practice game,” he noted.
In a practice match against Portmore United’s Under-15 boys outfit on Saturday, the Girlz were spanked 5-0.
Over the five days, Blaine noted that emphasis was placed on the attacking sector as he sought to achieve a fluent dimension.
“We have been working extensively on our finishing, and the girls have been responding well to not only finishing, but the build-up phase to finish,” he stated.
Blaine, who doubles as the national technical co-ordinator of the women’s programme, said the 10 overseas-based players selected in a 19-member squad will give his technical staff range.
“I must point out that of the 10 overseas-based players, three are actually players who have come through the schoolgirl and Sherwin Williams league and are now attending university in the USA. Another had already played for us at the U-17 level, so we do have a certain amount of balance within the squad,” he explained.
The 10 foreign-based players are Nugene Nugent, Carla Daniels, Sashagay Spence, Marlo Sweatman, Shanyce Shaw, Kimberly Spence, Chinyelu Asher, Alika Keene, Toriana Patterson and Taylor Grant.
The squad is completed by local-based Trudi Carter (captain), Shenika Williams, Sherika Ingram, Khedine Salmon, Sasalee Cooper, Daysia White, Renee Freeman, Khadija Shaw and Mellissa Bryan.
Jamaica open their Group A account against Mexico Thursday, then Canada on Saturday and close off the preliminaries next Monday against neighbours Haiti.
Blaine says he was able to gather intelligence on Canada who staged a final camp ahead of the tournament in Costa Rica, but he conceded that not much is known of the other nations’ preparation.
“I have got a scouting report for Canada who played a couple of games in Costa Rica recently. However, we are more focusing on our transition game regardless of the findings of the report. I believe that is the area that will determine our success or failure,” he said.
The two top teams from each zone will advance to the semi-final of the CONCACAF play-offs, with the two winners advancing to the World Cup in Japan from August 19 to September 8. The other spot will be filled by the winner of the third-place play-off match.
Group B will be headed by champions USA, who will have hosts Panama, Guatemala and Cuba to contend with.
All matches in the eight-team tournament will be played at Estadio Rommel Fernandez in the Panamanian capital from March 1 to 11.

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