Marc Stamp, Gleaner Writer
Jamaica will continue the hunt for a spot at next year's CONCACAF tournament, when they square off against neighbouring Cuba in a semi-final clash of the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) Women's Under-20 Finals, at Anthony Spaulding Sports Complex today, starting at 6 p.m.
In the first of the semi-finals double-header, Trinidad and Tobago (T&T) face Dominican Republic at 4 p.m.
The winners of the semi-finals will advance to Sunday's final at the same venue and also qualify for the CONCACAF Championship, alongside host country Cayman Islands in the next stage of the Women's Under-20 World Cup qualifiers in January.
With that at stake, Jamaica, after winning Group B in the preliminary round on maximum nine points from three games, ahead of runners-up Dominican Republic, are confident of winning against Cuba today.
"Cuba is a team that we are familiar with and in the previous stage of the CFU tournament we beat them 2-1 and we are confident of doing so again," Xavier Gilbert, coach of Jamaica's Young Reggae Girls, told The Gleaner yesterday.
"It is a semi-final game that will determine who advances to the CONCACAF stage, so we expect a tough encounter against the Cubans," Gilbert added.
Players had the flu
The coach said in previous games during the group stage, some players were down with the flu, but are now ready. "We will be at full strength as the players who were down with flu have recovered. There will be a few changes to the line-up for tomorrow's game," the coach disclosed.
Jamaica's striker Kayla Gray has scored six times so far, including two against St Kitts/Nevis, a hat-trick against Suriname and also scored in Jamaica's come-from-behind 2-1 win against Dominican Republic on Wednesday night. Gray is expected to get support from Nicole Harris, Jessica Johnson, Khadija Shaw, Oshay Lawes and captain Marlo Sweatman.
On the other hand, Cuba will be no pushovers. They qualified for the semi-finals with victories over Anguilla and Grenada, but lost to T&T in an exciting contest last Tuesday.
The Cubans will counter the Jamaicans with players such as Ollancy Gainza, Yoanna Gonsanez, Roxaina Goicoches, Elaine Costa and captain Regla Martinez.
In the opening game, Trinidad and Tobago are given the nod over Dominican Republic.
The T&T team has won their three preliminary games and has grown in confidence. They displayed good attacking football and the Dominican Republic will have to defend well in order to stop the Young Soca Warriors.