Never in doubt
Young Reggae Girlz coach sure Jamaica would make World Cup qualifiers
DESPITE GOING into their Concacaf Under-20 Women’s Championship Group E qualifying game as underdogs against Honduras at the Nicaragua National Football Stadium in Managua on Tuesday, coach Hugh Bradford said he and his team never saw it that way.
The Hondurans trashed Bermuda 6-1 in their opening match before brushing aside Anguilla 9-0, while the young Girlz could only stop Bermuda 2-0 and were less emphatic against Anguillian a 6-0 win.
With just the group winners qualifying for the Under-20 Women’s Championship, those results meant that the young Reggae Girlz were second in Group E and had to win, even against a team that from recent history, looked a more potent outfit.
However, Bradford insisted that the Hondurans hadn’t faced an opponent of Jamaica’s quality and was confident that they could more than take the Central Americans.
“They hadn’t played anyone like us, so we were okay with it,” Bradford told The Gleaner.
“They had not faced a team with our ability on the ball, to keep possession, and get in dangerous spaces behind.
“We did our homework, scouted them and saw what they did, what was strength for them. We game-planned, and to the players’ credit, they went out and executed the game plan that we had, and at the end of the day, we were the ones who came away with the win.”
Notaya Atkinson led the way for the young Girlz, giving them the lead after two minutes.
The Girlz then managed the game well, barely giving the Hondurans a sniff at goal despite their possession.
Atkinson put the game to bed with another strike in time added for the Jamaicans to finish atop the group with maximum nine points.
For Bradford, the most impressive aspect of the team was their ability to work out situations during games, and after showing their ability to go beyond their usual limits in their final match against Honduras, he is confident that they will do well at the championship tournament, which doubles as a World Cup qualifier.
“I am unbelievably proud of them. We just got together and the trust they showed in myself and each other was what gave us that edge.
“They learned to solve things on their own as we spent a lot of time on personal growth and development.
“So it was not just about getting information from a coach. They were empowered to go out and make decisions of their own.
“And because we, as a coaching staff, empowered them to make decisions and solve things, they were able to do that,” he said.
The Concacaf U20 Women’s Championship is scheduled for Santo Domingo, the Dominican Republic, from May 24 to June 3, and Bradford, who intends to strengthen the team before then, believes that they are ready.
“The next round will be tougher, so we have to be tougher. We have to put in the work and extend ourselves more than we did this round.
“I think they are ready. They proved that in their third game. That was a real difficult game, for many reasons, but they proved that when it comes to stretching themselves beyond limits, they are willing to do that,” he said.