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Under-17s braced for regional heavyweights

Bermuda have been pitted against defending champions United States, Costa Rica and Canada in group B for the Concacaf Under-17 Women’s Championship in Nicaragua in April.

Maurice Lowe, the Bermuda Football Association technical development director, admits the draw, which was made in Miami yesterday, was a tough one for the island.

Nicaragua, the host nation, are the top seeds in group A, which also includes Mexico, Puerto Rico and Haiti.

“It’s a difficult draw but at this level of competition there are no easy matches,” Lowe said.

“We’re undeterred, we are focused on our work now, we know what we have to do and who our opponents are. That gives us the ability to prepare now [putting] a face to the teams we will be playing against.

“We’ll have at least one training tour prior to the competition, but it’s difficult as a big part of our team is not locally based.

“We try to keep the local players ticking over with a steady diet of football and making sure that we prepare well so that when the overseas players join us we are in good stead.”

One of the overseas-based players is LeiLanni Nesbeth, the team’s top scorer during the Caribbean qualifiers in Haiti in October. She is studying at Bedes School in Sussex, England.

The recent introduction of a BFA women’s league has been timely with players now getting regular competitive matches.

“It’s going really, really well, we’re up to 255 girls at last count, so it is growing from strength to strength,” Lowe added.

“That bodes well for the big picture of women’s football in Bermuda. New girls are still coming and are welcome.”

The Estádio Nacional in Managua is the venue for the 16 matches of the tournament from which three teams will advance to the Under-17 World Cup in Uruguay this year.

The two finalists will be joined by the winner of the third-place play-off match between the two losing semi-finalists. The previous Concacaf Women’s Under-17 Championship was played in 2016 when the US captured a record-extending third title by beating Mexico 2-1 in the final.

Bermuda, who advanced to the championship after winning their group at the Caribbean qualifiers, will play Canada in their opening match on April 20.

Their other group matches will be on April 22 and 24 when they meet the US and Costa Rica.

“It’s important to recognise that we’ve done just as much as anyone else to qualify, so we belong here just as much as the other teams,” Lowe said.

“Our group looks more difficult on paper; we’ll see how things materialise when the actual competition begins.”

Katelyn Madeiros, one of the players vying for a spot on the Bermuda team for the Concacaf Under-17 Championships in Nicaragua in April. She went to Haiti with the team last year. (Photograph by Lawrence Trott)