Young Boyz drawn in 'Group of Death'
National Under-17 coach Andrew Edwards says the young Reggae Boyz face a daunting task if they intend to get something from their games against USA or Mexico and advance from what he calls the 'group of death' at the CONCACAF Under-17 championship to be staged in Panama in April and May.
At the draw in Panama on Tuesday, the Jamaicans were placed in Group C alongside Mexico, USA and El Salvador. Group A contains the host, Panama, Honduras, Curacao and Haiti; while Group B will be contested by Costa Rica, Canada, Cuba and Suriname.
On April 23, Jamaica open their campaign against USA, who defeated them 3-0 and 4-0 in friendlies in November. They then take on El Salvador in their second game on April 26, before closing off against Mexico on April 29.
Edwards admits that his team faces a tough challenge, but thinks the Boyz can achieve their objectives with the right effort.
"This is easily the group of death; a very difficult group and one in which we will have to perform above and beyond anything we have done to get something out of those two games.
"Being drawn alongside CONCACAF powerhouses Mexico and USA is certainly a very daunting task, and it will make our passage to (qualifying for) the FIFA World Cup much more difficult if we can be successful," Edwards said.
Despite convincing losses to USA in their friendly games in November, Edwards believes the team will be competitive and says they will be targeting the Americans in their opening match.
"This is football, and we have the capacity to develop our team sufficiently to create a few surprises, and definitely, we will be targeting the first game against the USA. We recently lost two practice matches to that team, but we will go in (to game against them) in a very determined and focused way to get a positive result and try to propel ourselves forward from there," he said.
Meanwhile, in an effort to give the team more competitive matches, a structure was designed for the tournament, which will see the top two teams from each group advancing to the Classification Stage. In this stage, the teams will be placed in two groups of three and will play on a round-robin basis. The top four teams from this round will qualify as CONCACAF's representatives at the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup in India, while the top two teams from each classification group will play a final on May 7.