Costa Rica test for Ja's Girlz
Gordon Williams, Gleaner Writer
ILLINOIS, USA:Jamaica will today ride group leadership and plenty confidence into their second game of the CONCACAF Women's Championship (CWC) against Costa Rica, but the Reggae Girlz may need a sharper edge in front of goal to take down the Ticas in what could decide if their march towards historic World Cup football qualification accelerates or stalls.
A win, coupled with Thursday's 6-0 drubbing of Martinique in Kansas City, will push Jamaica to the brink of the CWC semi-final and closer to football's showpiece tournament next year in Canada. A loss, however, could plunge the Girlz into uncertainty going into their last Group B game against talented Mexico next week in Washington, DC.
Thursday's scoring glut gave Jamaica temporary control of the group on goal difference, but the feature match of the double header - Costa Rica's 1-0 win over Mexico - confirmed the Girlz enter today's 3 p.m. kick-off at Toyota Park, Illinois, facing a much stiffer test on what is expected to be a chilly afternoon.
While Jamaica's head coach Merron Gordon was "pleased" with Thursday's "important" win and three points, he stressed his team's effort must be raised today with a more consistent display, especially in converting scoring opportunities.
Jamaica know Costa Rica won't buckle like Martinique. The Ticas, a fit, quick, skilful and aggressive team, match up well with the Girlz. Jamaica are not short on knowledge about their opponents. Captain Alicia Wilson, who lived and played in Costa Rica for years, knows the Central Americans well.
"Costa Rica have a very good squad," said Lorne Donaldson, a former Jamaica international who predicted the Ticas would win their opening match. "They are very accomplished moving the ball."
Jamaica proved they could as well against Martinique, looking comfortable distributing the ball from defence and midfield. The coaches believe Jamaica's Girlz have tools - particularly speed, skill and agility - to topple Costa Rica and top the group.
"Our team is better," Donaldson said. "Barring injuries, I like our chances."
The Jamaican team has concerns. Chief among them is influential midfielder Omalyn Davis, who suffered a leg injury in training the day before Martinique and took no part in that game. Gordon predicted "she'll be O.K." and other "niggling" ailments shouldn't keep any key players out of contention for places.
The top-two teams from Group B will advance to the semis. Three of that group automatically qualify for World Cup 2015. Fourth-place plays Ecuador for another spot in Canada. For the Girlz, today's game is a crucial step in that direction.
"We're looking at the bigger picture," a Jamaican player told an interviewer after Thursday's game.
Just not past Costa Rica.