June 9, 2018 at 3:00 am #53
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — It’s mission accomplished for head coach Hue Menzies and his Reggae Girlz, who are still celebrating their achievement of progressing to the final round of the CONCACAF Caribbean Women’s Qualifiers after successfully navigating the first round here.
It took guts, determination and a tremendous amount of willpower for the Reggae Girlz to achieve the feat, as they had to come from two goals down to earn a 2-2 scoreline against the host nation in a nail-biting Group B decider at Stade Sylvio Cator on Sunday.
Goals from strikers Trudi Carter (44th minute) and Khadija Shaw (65th) secured a valuable point for the Reggae Girlz after Michele Dumonay (24th) and Sherly Jeudy (43rd) gave the Haitians an early two-goal lead.
The stalemate meant that the Jamaicans, who ended with a superior goal difference of 18 goals for and two against, ended as group winners ahead of Haiti who had 15 goals for and two against, as both teams finished with seven points.
Martinique finished third on three points with Guadeloupe at the foot of the four-team standing without a point.
An overwhelmed Menzies could not contain his joy as he expressed gratitude to his players, Cedella Marley and UK-based Alacrann for their combined effort in the accomplishment.
“We actually didn’t play for a draw, we wanted to win, but it just happened that we ended up drawing the game. I told them there are three things in football — you win, lose or draw. We had two options on our side, and the ladies did tremendously well to ensure that we took a favourable one.
“Thanks to the Marley Foundation and Alacrann for giving us the opportunity to prepare in Orlando ahead of this event, that was invaluable for us because we brought in players that could withstand the pressure and we put it together and got it done.
“The camaraderie between the players and the staff coming to Haiti was unbelievable and everybody is just happy right now as you can see,” he told the Jamaica Observer, while the players continued their wild celebrations in the dressing room.
The magnitude of the occasion playing against the host nation before a massive support of well over 15,000 spectators, took its toll on the Reggae Girlz as they seemed a bit timid in the early exchanges before eventually settling down and finding their range.
“We felt like we had them exactly where we wanted them when we scored that goal right before the half because it was anybody’s game from there. They were trying to kill the game and we wanted to find the equaliser and I thought we went out there and execute.
“We made a lot of adjustments throughout the second half and obviously ‘Bunny’ [Khadija Shaw], one of the best players ever, stepped up and found that important goal for us. You just can’t teach what she has, she has tremendous ability and I lift my hat off to her and the entire team,” Menzies noted.
The Reggae Girlz will now turn their attention to the final round scheduled for August 25 to September 2, and the tactician, while plotting the way forward, expressed optimism that Jamaica will have the opportunity to play host.
“We always want to create a pool of players and currently we have a nice pool of players. Some will go back to European and college duties and so we are going to do some evaluation to see what teams go through and then we take it from there,” Menzies revealed.
He continued: “But this is a great step for Jamaica women’s football and so now we are looking out for sponsors and we want the people to support us because we are looking to see if we can host the next round to bring the people of Jamaica closer to this group of players.
“They are special, they came to Haiti under a lot of pressure to deliver and they did just that. Hopefully we get an opportunity to get some camps and some games before we go into the next round so that we can get the players to gel some more.”
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