Marc Stamp, Sunday Gleaner Writer
Hosts Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago (T&T) will square off for the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) Women's Under-20 crown in the regional final at the Anthony Spaulding Sports Complex in Trench Town, St Andrew, today, starting at 6 p.m.
The match will be preceded by a third-place play-off between the Dominican Republic and Cuba, at 4 p.m.
With Jamaica and T&T already advancing to the CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers to be played next January in the Cayman Islands, both teams will be engaged in a final that could be a highly charged contest.
Jamaica won Group B in the preliminary stage with maximum nine points, then easily rolled over Cuba 5-1 in the semi-final two days ago.
Like Jamaica, T&T have a perfect record en route to the grand finale. They beat the Dominican Republic 2-1, also on Friday, in the first semi-final at the home of local Premier League club Arnett Gardens.
Now the stage is set for a showdown between two of the Caribbean's top football nations. It could come down to the better defensive team on the day. Both teams have been good offensively.
JA coach confident
Jamaica's coach Xavier Gilbert is highly confident that his team will be crowned champions when the final whistle is blown.
"I am pretty confident. The girls have been committed to the cause. No game has been easy, regardless of the scoreline. They will continue to work hard to make Jamaica proud," Gilbert told The Sunday Gleaner yesterday.
Jamaica could be without defender Imani Richards and midfielder Mackenzie Marsh, as both were injured in the semi-final against Cuba. Richards was substituted after a clash of heads with a Cuban player. She suffered a concussion, but received medical attention at the hospital and was released late that night. Marsh picked up a groin injury in the game and is also doubtful.
However, the Jamaica squad has adequate cover for these players if they are not passed fit to play.
"We want to top the Caribbean on way to the tougher CONCACAF stage next year in Cayman," Gilbert, who is also coach of Waterhouse FC women's team, emphasised.
Meanwhile, Izler Browne, coach of T&T, noted that they had achieved the main objective - to qualify for CONCACAF Finals. However, they have also set their sights on winning the CFU title.
"Our main objective was to qualify for the next stage. Now we have to play Jamaica and, hopefully, win the tournament," Browne declared.
"We have some injury concerns and will rest them as the bigger picture is the next stage of the World Cup qualifiers," the coach added.
Jamaica's attack will be led by the tournament's leading striker, Kayla Gray, who has netted nine times. She scored a hat-trick in the semi-final. Gray is expected to get good support from Nicole Harris, 16-year-old central midfielder Khadija Shaw, and captain Marlo Sweatman.
T&T's counter-attack should be led by Patrice Campbell, alongside captain Anique Walker and Jonelle Warrick.
Spectators could be in for a good game of attacking football from the teams.