The overall standard at the Under-15 Girls CONCACAF tournament was encouraging to many observers.
A year after the inaugural boys U-15 CONCACAF tournament was held in the Cayman Islands, the girls got their turn this time and Canada were the victors at the Truman Bodden Sports Complex on Sunday. Matches were also played at the TE McField Annex, Ed Bush Stadium and in Cayman Brac involving 16 teams in total.
Canada beat Haiti 4-1 on penalties after drawing 1-1 with them in regulation time in a pulsating final.
Carl Brown, former technical director of the Cayman national men’s team, attended both youth tournaments as a member of CONCACAF’s Technical Committee.
He was one of the assessors pleasantly surprised with the overall standard of the girls and rated them better than the equivalent boys.
“When you look at the direction women’s football is heading, it really augurs well for the future,” Brown said.
He was particularly impressed with a few Jamaicans, Raenah Campbell, the Trinidad and Tobago captain, many of the Canadians, particularly Samantha Chang, Kennedy Faulknor, Mya Jones, Anyssa Ibrahim and the captain Sarah Stratigakis. Brown also praised the significant improvement of the Cayman youngsters.
“I remember when coach Thiago Cunha started with them three years ago and how much they have improved since then,” he said. “It’s about continuation and how well we’re going to do for the U-15s and the ones who will form the nucleus for the U-17s.”
Brown wants to see plenty of opportunities for all the U-15s to get more international experience.
Jeffrey Webb, the CONCACAF president and FIFA vice-president, is pleased with how the tournament went and in particular how the final match was so close.
“It was a great tournament, exceptional competition and quality of football,” he said.
“It was really encouraging for us and the goal for us now is for these girls to continue in CONCACAF qualifying games next year and from there they will go on to win the World Cup.”
Webb added: “It was a tremendous championship game and I think it is easy to say that we have two champions.”
He was particularly impressed with Stratigakis, who was voted the most outstanding player in the tournament.
Cayman has hosted three CONCACAF tournaments in the past year, so other countries in the region will get a chance now.
However, Webb said that there are a number of smaller tournaments that Cayman may qualify to stage in the near future.
“The Cayman Islands Football Association and the government will have to make bids for those tournaments and we’ll take it from there,” he said.
“The feedback from the tournaments here has been excellent. The facilities have been tremendous and the government has done an awesome job in providing the infrastructure, and the venues have been well prepared and the standard of football that we saw has been deserving of that.”
Webb is looking forward to the boys U-15s next year which, will include Mexico, one of CONCACAF’s best teams.