Tough but possible: Gilbert expects makeshift Girlz squad to bounce back against Guatemala

By October 28, 2023
Jamaica's Reggae Girlz celebrate a goal against Panama. Jamaica's Reggae Girlz celebrate a goal against Panama. Concacaf

Interim Reggae Girlz Head coach Xavier Gilbert is hoping his makeshift team can bounce back quickly to not only take three points off Guatemala, but more importantly, put themselves in a much better position to top the qualifying group on their way to next year’s Concacaf Women’s Gold Cup.

The Girlz, who went down 1-2 away to Panama, are currently at the foot of the three-team Group B in League A of the qualifiers, but a win against Guatemala at the National Stadium on Sunday, would see them back in contention for the coveted top spot.

This, as Panama currently lead with six points from three games, followed by Guatemala with three points from two games, while the Girlz will be contesting their second fixture to be followed by the return leg encounters on November 29 and December 3 respectively.

Sunday’s game is scheduled for 5:00pm.

“I think the ladies can bounce back, but it is going to be a tough encounter similar to what we experienced against Panama. I think the ladies are in a much better place after getting the first game out of the way and we managed to get an extra session in with everybody so that was good,” Gilbert told SportsMax.TV.

“The spirits are high, so we just have to come out and execute. As I said before, it is going to be tough, and we are mindful that they (Guatemala) beat Panama before Panama defeated them. We know that they like to shoot from different areas, and I think offensively they are strong, so we just have to nullify their strengths,” he added.

Reflecting on the first game, Gilbert was encouraged by his team’s display for the most part, given the fact that they were pulled together only a few days prior to that game.

In fact, had it not been for an own-goal and a defensive error by Alika Keene in either half of the contest, Gilbert’s makeshift side would have pulled off a highly unexpected win.

“When you look back at the first game against Panama, they really didn’t break us down to score and unfortunately, we didn’t come away with anything because of the own-goal and defensive error. But we have Marlo Sweatman coming in for this game and with her experience in the middle of the park, I think we should give a much better performance on this occasion,” the tactician noted.

Marlo Sweatman, who didn’t make the trip to Panama, joined the team’s training session on Friday. She along with fellow 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup veteran Chinyelu Asher, are expected to do most of the work in the midfield, both from an attacking and defensive perspective.

Sweatman, 28, who currently plays professionally in Hungary, is eager to ply her part in the makeshift Girlz resurgence.

"I am very happy to be here. I have been playing attacking midfield and scoring a lot of goals, and I feel like I am in good form,” she said.

“This is a very young team, and so I will bring in a lot of experience and some leadership, especially in the midfield, as well as off the field, to help them grow as players and as people off the field as well,” Sweatman shared.

Sherdon Cowan

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

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