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Naquita Robinson relishing chance to cause upset at Women’s Under-20 Championship

Ready for the challenge: Naquita Robinson, Bermuda women’s head coach (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Naquita Robinson has warned Bermuda’s regional rivals that her side has no fear as they prepare to upset the odds at the Concacaf Women’s Under-20 Championship.

Having already qualified directly to the knockout stage of the tournament — scheduled for February 25 to March 12 in the Dominican Republic — after topping their qualification group back in September, Bermuda finally discovered their possible Round of 16 opponents following the group-stage draw, involving the top-ranked 16 nations. The draw took place in Miami on Monday.

The top three teams from those four groups, will join the four qualifiers — Bermuda, Cayman Islands, Curacao and Surinam — that advanced directly to the knockout stage of the championship. The top three finishers from the competition will qualify for the Fifa Women’s Under-20 World Cup in Costa Rica in August.

Bermuda will face the winner of group H, which includes Haiti, Jamaica, Guatemala and Cuba, setting up the prospect of resuming rivalries with Jamaica, who cruised to an emphatic 9-1 thrashing over Robinson’s side at the same stage of the competition in March 2020.

While well aware her side come into the tournament as underdogs, despite entering at the knockout phase, Robinson remains confident they are better equipped for the task at hand and is adamant no lasting scars remain from the previous humbling to Jamaica.

“While it’s great to be in the knockout stage and it is not really a major advantage because we have to play the group H winner, and whoever that is, will be tough because all those teams in the group stage are ranked in the top 16 within Concacaf,” she said.

“The format of the tournament isn’t really set up for the smaller nations but it is what it is and we won’t be looking for any excuses.

Robinson underlined that her team will be highly motivated and warned that the girls have shown signs of significant improvement.

“Whoever we have to play we will be up for it. We are a lot stronger than we were in that defeat to Jamaica, the squad is more mature, has plenty of experience and they will certainly be up for the task for sure,” said Robinson.

“We will need to see how much we can punch above our weight but in a knockout match anything can happen. We need to take our opportunities because we have a great chance and will face the challenge head on.

“There is certainly no scars or fear from that defeat to Jamaica previously. We have had experience of playing other big nations like the United States and so we genuinely don’t fear anyone, I think we’ll actually surprise a few nations.”

Preparations are already well under way ahead of the tournament, with a number of the squad set to feature in the full senior women’s national squad in a scheduled friendly in Jamaica on February 17.

While Robinson conceded to ideally wanting a full training camp and at least two more fixtures ahead of travelling to the Dominican Republic, she is confident any exposure and experience with the senior squad, will stand those players making the trip with the Under-20s in good stead.

“One key difference about this squad is that a lot of work is being done to make sure they are part of the senior group and so that can give them a major confidence boost when they step back down to under-20 level,” she added.

“A big part of our plan with the national women’s sides is to give them exposure to a higher level because it is a much easier transition stepping back down when they are used to a higher level.

“As a federation we are actively working on a training camp and trying to arrange some more international fixtures. As a coach I’d ideally love to have some tough preparation games against some higher-ranked nations, and that is what we are actively trying to do,” said Robinson.

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Published November 19, 2021 at 9:21 am (Updated November 20, 2021 at 8:04 am)

Naquita Robinson relishing chance to cause upset at Women’s Under-20 Championship

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