The ‘Lady Jags’ are eyeing a spot at next year’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro and the country’s Senior National Women’s team quest to Brazil will see them facing Puerto Rico on Wednesday, November 18, at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Trinidad and Tobago in the final round Caribbean Football Union (CFU) Women’s Olympic Qualifier.
Guyana, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, along with Puerto Rico had qualified for the ‘four-team playoff’ by coming out on top of their respective groups.
The Lady Jags arrived in the Twin Island Republic last Sunday and should Guyana be victorious against Puerto Rico, they will advance to the finals on November 20.
In the final round, the four teams will play a single-elimination tournament. The two finalists and the winner of the third-place match will qualify for the 2016 CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying Championship as CFU representatives.
If the Lady Jags finish within the top three, they will face the likes of USA, Canada, Mexico and two representatives from the Central American region.
By virtue of reaching the 2010 CONCACAF Gold Cup in Cancun, the Women’s national team is the country’s most successful.
The team’s head coach Mark Rodrigues believes that his side is “definitely the underdogs heading into the championships as a result of the other countries encamped their players several weeks ago, but it’s a position that we have found ourselves in before and somehow we always manage to find some deep resolve to get the job done. This time will be no different. Admittedly we will have to dig very deep as the teams we will face are the best in the Caribbean and are now in the top 10 best within the 41 countries that make up CONCACAF”
Rodrigues listed the DeSouza sisters Kayla and Briana, along with Justine and Ashley Rodrigues (Captain), Ashlee Savona, Mariam El-Masri, Olivia Gonsalves and Alison Heydorn as key players in their journey to Brazil, given the fact that the aforementioned players would’ve played integral roles in the team’s success and rise in World football.
Looking ahead to Wednesday’s game against Puerto Rico, Rodrigues was adamant that the ladies are fully aware of what the potential success will do for women’s football in Guyana “…and with that in mind, I am confident that they will leave it all on the field come Nov 18”.
The Lady Jags – Guyana’s most successful national team, after a five year hiatus, was resuscitated under the Normalisation Committee and Rodrigues lauded the ‘NC’ for their “support and belief in the Lady Jags, and for giving Guyana football the opportunity to put us back on the world footballing spotlight. Their belief in us, coupled with the very difficult and outstanding job they were charged with has placed football in Guyana on the precipice of a very bright and exciting future for our youth to embrace”.
Meanwhile, the Guyanese ladies will have to take the field without English based striker Otesha Charles, who sustained an injury and did not recover in time to suit up for the Lady Jags in Trinidad.
However, the team will now have the service of former NCAA standout goalkeeper Chante Sandiford. The 25 year-old who had a stellar career in the US collegiate system with the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), is making her senior international debut, after having ‘call-ups’ by the USA for several youth tournaments.
With stints in several professional leagues around Europe, Sandiford now plays with UMF Selfoss in Iceland and Rodrigues believes that her inclusion will certainly boost the team’s chances of reaching the CONCACAF round of the qualifiers.