Paul Clarke, Gleaner Writer
Junior Reggae Girlz head coach Vin Blaine has thrown down the gauntlet ahead of tomorrow's CONCACAF Under-17 Women's Football Championship semi-final against Canada at the Montego Bay Sports Complex, St James, starting at 6:00 p.m.
Blaine and his coaching staff have been on a high since guiding the Girlz to an unprecedented last four appearances in the two-week-long championship and he insists the journey is not yet over adding that there is a plan to blunt Canada's inspired attack.
Canada have four of the top five individual scorers in their ranks, including the dead-eye accurate Maria Metivier who has scored five times so far. Jamaica's leading scorer is Asia Lee-Fatt. The centre forward has three goals and will be called upon to notch one or more against the quick-tackling Canadians.
"I have not seen Canada. I have seen the USA and they are a very strong team. They run hard all day long but we have to prepare for the Canadians who I consider a rung just below the Americans, equally dangerous in front of goal," said Blaine.
GIRLZ WILL BE READY
"The girls, however, will be ready. Realistically, anything can happen, one mistake and we score and it could be over for them," he said. "We can do that and try and win. Our policy is to play hard, try to score and win the game. That's all we need to do. Be patient and create the right atmosphere to attack the Canadians." Much will be asked of the Jamaicans' defence line and twice as much for their midfield, which is led by team captain Khadija Shaw in the central midfield role. She, along with Deneisha Blackwood on the left and the silky smooth Jorja Hughes could make things pretty interesting for Canada.
Shaw, a towering bulk of a player, is rugged and possesses the style and attacking acumen coach Blaine admires. He thinks she may be the difference maker.
"Khadija has been playing since she was 13. She is very experienced at youth level having played Under-15s through to the Under-20s and I think she is yet to show her true potential in this championship as she is tired."
"I hope she gets some rest because she is a big part of this team, we can't leave her out because she is that talented," he added.
Overall it will be a tough semi-final undertaking against Canada who have so far scored 19 goals, the most in the championship. They have conceded only twice in the losing effort against the United States, but they too will be bang-on ready for the clash and Blaine knows how momentous it could be for Jamaica to advance to the final with victory over their most northern neighbours.
"When we came into this championship we knew there were three big guns - Mexico, Canada and the Americans - but now we know we can play their level. That 1-1 draw with Mexico has given this team belief and Canada are next in line for some surprise, if we keep our heads and play hard.
"We are enjoying ourselves and creating a little history along the way is important but we have to keep going and get past this Canada team to keep rewriting our history. It's like this is our own world cup," reasoned Blaine.
The United States will battle Mexico in the opening semi-final game starting at 3:00 p.m. and the matches will be free to the public.