Girlz seek positive result in crucial tie against Panama

By November 29, 2023
Jamaica and Panama in action recently. Jamaica and Panama in action recently. Concacaf

Interim Reggae Girlz Head Coach Xavier Gilbert is well aware of the need for his players not only maintain their focus, but also to execute efficiently and consistently for the next over 180-plus minutes, if they are to achieve the desired results in two must-win Concacaf Women’s Gold Cup qualifying fixtures.

The first will be against a gritty Panama outfit that will be riding high on the fact that they defeated the Jamaicans 2-1 in their first meeting and, more importantly, hold pole position in Group B on six points, which means they only need a point at the National Stadium on Wednesday.

Kickoff is at 7:00pm.

For Gilbert and his Girlz, who sit at the foot of the three-team table on a point, the objective is pretty straightforward –win and they are into the group stages of next year’s Concacaf Women’s Gold Cup.

But the tactician is well aware that it is much easier said than done and, as such, is cautiously optimistic about his team’s chances of taking three points at home, before visiting second-placed Guatemala (four points) away, on Sunday.

“We had three good sessions, and things went well, one player joined us let, but apart from that, all the players have settled in well. They know what is at stake, and you can tell by the mood in the camp that they are ready to give it their best shot,” Gilbert told SportsMax.TV.

“They have responded well to our request in terms of adjustment to the system of play, which is good, so what we did, was use the final session (on Tuesday) to tighten up on a few things and areas in which believe we need to strengthen. So, I am optimistic that once they execute how we want them to, we will come out with a positive result,” he added.

Should the Reggae Girlz defeat Panama, it would mean all three teams in the group, could take the top spot, and the outcome would rely on Sunday’s clash between Guatemala and the Jamaicans.

While finishing tops is the priority, the second-placed team would also have a second shot at Gold Cup qualification, as they would enter the preliminary phase of the tournament to oppose to group winners from League’s B and C.

That means, the Girlz could draw with Panama and then beat Guatemala to book the runner-up spot. But, that is no comfort to Gilbert, who is hoping to get the job done the right way.

“The game was a couple of weeks ago. This is a different situation and different circumstances. There is some unrest in their country, I am not sure if that has affected them mentally on this occasion, but we just have to be on our A game,” Gilbert said as he reflected on their away loss to Panama.

“We have to be better than what we were in the last game, and I am sure Panama is also looking to do better, so it's going to be extremely tough for us. Obviously, we've looked at a few things that we're looking to implement as we look to impose more of our will on the game,” he noted.

Gilbert, who is still without his World Cup players due to a prolonged standoff with the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF), is making do with a squad that boasts more youth than experience –2019 World Cup veterans Chinyelu Asher and Marlo Sweatman being the experience.

Still, the likes of Ricshya Walker, Melissa Johnson and Zoe Vidaurre, who all scored in the last window, are very much capable of doing more damage.

Panama will turn to their core group of playmakers in Riley Tanner, Marta Cox and Lineth Cedeno to get the job done, and Gilbert is very much wary of that and is aiming to nullify the trio.

“We are still working to finalize the best 11, so far, we are close to it, but there are still some other pieces to put in place. But the overall expectation heading into the game is to make sure that we get something out of it, which is our objective, and then we will see how it goes,” Gilbert ended.

Sherdon Cowan

Sherdon Cowan is a five-time award-winning journalist with 10 years' experience covering sports.

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