Downswell looks to step up preparation for Under-20s
Robert Bailey, Gleaner Writer
Wendell Downswell, head coach of Jamaica's Under-20 football team, which secured the spot in the final round CONCACAF 12-team qualifiers for the FIFA World Championship, is delighted with his team's effort despite the lack of quality opposition.
The CONCACAF finals will be held in Guatemala in March 2011.
"It was a good performance and a very quality one despite the fact the opposition wasn't as strong, but we used the exercise to develop the team itself," said Downswell, in an interview with The Gleaner following their arrival at the Norman Manley International Airport yesterday.
"It was also a glorious opportunity for the youngsters to expose their talents, especially at the international level," he said.
"We have a high percentage of them (players) who were debutants, and so we are pretty satisfied with how they performed," said Downswell, who is also the head coach of Digicel Premier League outfit Reno.
The junior Reggae Boyz began their campaign with a 6-1 win over Grenada. They then demolished the US Virgin Islands 13-0 in their second match, before closing out the qualifiers with a 2-0 win over hosts Guyana, on Sunday.
"We are happy that we have qualified and the work has just started, because we are going to open the selection process to look at other players and, therefore, start the preparation for the next phase," Downswell continued.
"We need to have a number of local camps and we also need to play some matches against the national senior team. We also need to play at least six to eight quality international games that will put us in good stead, in terms of our preparations."
Striker Craig Foster, who was Jamaica's most prolific scorer with eight goals in the tournament, including hat-tricks against Grenada and the US Virgin Islands, was thrilled with his achievements.
"It is a dream come through," said Foster, who represents Reno in the Digicel Premier League and has scored one goal this season against Arnett Gardens.
"This is the first time that I am playing with the national team and to score so many goals, I think it was a wonderful achievement for me," he said.
"It is a great boost for my career, because this is going to give me a lot of confidence going forward into the next round of the competition," said Foster, who is a past student of Mannings High School.