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U-17s Ahead Of Last Team - Downswell
Jermaine Lannaman, Gleaner Writer
National Under-17 football team coach, Wendell Downswell, says the current team appears to be at a more advanced stage than that which qualified for the FIFA Under-17 World Cup in Mexico last year.
Downswell, who led the team which drew one match and lost two at the World Cup, made the remark on Sunday night shortly after Jamaica's 4-0 win over Antigua and Barbuda in their second and final Caribbean Football Union (CFU) Group One Under-17 qualifying match at Drewsland Stadium.
The victory propelled Jamaica to top of the group with maximum six points and into the final round of CFU qualifiers, which will be held between August 19 and 30 at a venue to be decided.
Jamaica, courtesy of a hat-trick from Jaheel Hyde, defeated Bermuda 5-0 in their opening fixture.
"At this stage they appear to be ahead of the last team, given the way they are playing," said Downswell.
"They are more consistent in terms of performances than the previous batch, and this was evident in the KSAFA Under-20 competition, which we played as warm-up.
"During the Under-20 competition, the team won seven, drew two and lost one of its matches - to eventual winners Harbour View.
"This is different from the last time around, in which the team, after a year and a half of preparation, never looked as convincing or consistent," he assessed.
Double from Flemmings
Jamaica were led to victory over Antigua and Barbuda on a brace from forward Junior Flemmings, who also scored in the first match.
The fleet-footed striker netted in the 17th and 20th minutes to add to midfielder I'Ishmael Currie's opening goal in the 10th minute.
Flemmings' strike partner, Michael Seaten, who also scored in the first match, rounded off the scoring in the 44th minute.
"We are happy to come through these qualifiers with nine goals, as it has instilled a certain level of confidence in them and lays a good foundation for the team to progress in the other rounds," said Downswell.
"The coaching staff will now be looking to a few internationals before the final round, as well as playing against the national Under-20 squad, which is in training, and a couple of high-school teams, who are preparing for upcoming competitions."
Downswell, whose charges lost 1-0 to Japan, 2-1 to Argentina and drew 1-1 with France at the World Cup, also said despite looking at 600 players islandwide at the confederation and parish levels, the coaching staff will be reopening the window for new players.
"We will be opening the window again to take a look at a few more players, albeit on smaller scale, as we are still in need of another quality striker, left full back, central midfielder and central defender," he said.
The final round of CFU qualifiers will include the five qualifying group winners, as well as the top second-place team.
The top three teams from the qualifiers will advance to the CONCACAF Under-17 Championship, which will be held in Panama early next year.
The top three teams from the Panama play-off will qualify for the Under-17 World Cup Finals, which will be held in the United Arab Emirates in summer next year.