“Come Tuesday, we will beat up on Jamaica.” It’s the boast which Trinidad and Tobago national women’s team striker Kennya “Ya Ya” Cordner hopes to deliver on tonight, when the Soca Princesses meet Jamaica’s Reggae Girlz in the final of the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) Women’s Caribbean Cup from 7.15 p.m. at Hasely Crawford Stadium.
After sweeping both their respective groups, the two Caribbean football giants lock horns in a historic match, both seeking to become the first country to win the inaugural tournament. The match will be preceded at 6.00 p.m. by the third-place playoff, in which Haiti are favoured to get the better of Martinique. Admission is $50, while children under 12 enter free.
There have not been many meetings between T&T and Jamaica in women’s football; just one, a 2-1 victory for the Soca Princesses at the 1994 CONCACAF Gold Cup. Usually, Jamaica and T&T win their groups in Caribbean competition, and in different countries, before ending up in separate pots at CONCACAF level.
The first Women’s Caribbean Cup has brought them together for a change. Support for the Soca Princesses has been good throughout the tournament, while the Reggae Girlz have walked with their supporters as well-- with particularly distinct battle cries: “All the way from Spanish Town. All the way from Portmore. All the way from Negril”... and so on.
However, the T&T women have played with flair, confidence and, arguably, have produced the more attractive football, while the Reggae Girlz bring a combination of brawn and good football.
There are many goal scorers in the T&T outfit, outright strikers Kennya Cordner (three goals) and Mariah Shade (five goals) playing in wide positions, as well as Tasha St Louis, the top-scorer of the tournament with seven.
Janine Francois (two), Maylee Attin Johnson (one) and Dernell Mascall (two) are also goal-scoring threats from midfield, while Karen Forbes is a constant danger with her big shot from long-range.
Meanwhile, Jamaica have gotten most production from star striker Shakira Henry, who has a total of 14 goals in two rounds of Caribbean Cup action and six at these finals. Her strike partner Donnakay Henry has scored five times, while Denecia Reid has put in a couple coming off the bench.
“Jamaica are obviously a good side,” said T&T’s American head-coach Randy Waldrum. “We have seen them play a couple of times and (we) carried the (our) girls to see them the other night. You can tell they have been together for a while training, and its going to be a good match-up.”
“I think the key is if we can keep them locked down defensively and continue the ball movement the way we have,” Waldrum added. “They are similar in a lot of regards to the way we are playing. I think you can see some subtle differences in the role of some of the players and what we are trying to do with ours.”
Waldrum says the final is good preparation for the World Cup qualifiers in two months’ time and hopes Jamaica test and stretch his team in a way they have not in earlier matches. He wants a professional approach from the Soca Princesses and expects they will keep structure, composure and continue to play the way they have been training to do. Also, he wants to see them play with the same speed which has seen both St Kitts-Nevis and Martinique concede within minutes of the start.
“I am trying to get us to play at a tempo that makes other teams uncomfortable to play against us,” said Waldrum, while adding: “Let’s act as we are professionals, because we are the women’s national team.”