PANAMA City, Panama — National youth coach Wendell Downswell said lack of experience cost his team a place in the 2013 FIFA Under-17 World Cup to be staged in the United Arab Emirates.
The Jamaicans led twice against Canada on Saturday — including a 2-1 half-time advantage — before a dramatic second-half defensive meltdown saw the Young Boyz conceding three goals inside the final 30 minutes to lose 2-4 at the quarter-final stage of the CONCACAF Under-17 tournament.
When the dust settled, Canada were through to the semi-final and had automatically sealed their berth to the youth football showpiece in Asia, while Downswell was left searching for the missing pieces to the qualification puzzle.
He identified the team’s pre-tournament preparation — which was limited, due to the Jamaica Football Federation’s (JFF) budgetary constraints, to matches against mostly sub-par local club teams, as being inadequate.
According to Downswell, the tournament build-up contrasted with the successful World Cup qualifying campaign two years ago when Jamaica had an extensive camp in Brazil, which yielded no less than 20 practice matches against good opposition on high-quality playing surfaces.
“We are extremely disappointed that we could not (qualify)… we were hoping that we could have been part of history by qualifying. We led on two occasions and I think we were let down defensively. At this level, the immaturity of these players came to the fore.
“If you look at these youngsters, they don’t play that level of regular competitive football against quality opposition over an extended period of time. Compare that to the North American and Central American teams… most of those players are young professionals.
“Yes, we practised a lot at home, but local football and international football is like night and day, and it was quite evident here and I will continue to echo that sentiment… we tried with what we had, but it comes down to the level of international exposure,” Downswell said.