The first group stages of Caribbean qualifying for the Women's Olympic Football Tournament in Beijing next year proved a mixed bag over the course of three matchdays from 3-7 October. While T&T, Cuba and Jamaica all won their sections with perfect nine-point hauls from three matches, some of the less-known sides suffered heavy defeats.
Trinidad and Tobago, whose men's, youth and women's teams have been undergoing a revival in recent years, jumped predictably out to take sole ownership of top spot in Group A in Paramaribo, Surinam.
Avenell Isaac scored four and Tasha St. Louis added two more in a 9-0 opening win over St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Grenada were next to feel the Trinidadian heat as the dual-islanders roared to a 6-0 win thanks to a hat trick from the prolific St. Louis. They rounded out the proceedings and qualified for the next stages as group winner with a 4-1 win over hosts Surinam.
"You can't come into these types of things thinking it's going to be easy," coach Marlon Charles said. "So we made sure that we were prepared for our task." With 19 goals scored and only one conceded it seems the coach in his charges got the preparation just right.
Cuban training methods for the their Group B campaign seemed similarly effective. After starting with a 4-0 win over hosts Dominican Republic in Santo Domingo, the ladies from Havana showed their class in their second game against the British Virgin Islands. The 21-0 result illustrated a huge gulf between the two teams and equalled the largest all-time margin of victory in a CONCACAF women's match.
Yezenia Gallardo scored five and four each from Niurka Cuesta and Misleldis Reyes made the contest a virtual walkover from the early minutes.
The Cubans then repeated the dose on the US Virgin Islands in their last match on Sunday, albeit with far less fanfare - and scoring. Gallardo grabbed two more in a tense 2-1 win. 37 goals for and one against means Cuba are now a team to watch.
Jamaica were the third smiling side on Sunday, as they roared emphatically to the top of Group C to book a place in the next round. And in perhaps the most impressive performance of the round, they didn't conceded a single goal in a 4-0 win over Bermuda, a 12-0 win over hosts Antigua and Barbuda and an 8-0 win over Dominica, which left them with 24 goals scored and zero conceded.
Keneshia Reid and Tanasha Vincent were the ace markswomen for the Jamaicans and will be a pair to watch out for in the next rounds.
Cuba, T&T and Jamaica will join up with the winner of Group D (Cayman Islands, Haiti or Puerto Rico) in the four-team second round to take place later this year. The top two teams from the round robin will qualify for the final round of CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying for Beijing 2008, where big gals the USA, Canada and Mexico will join the party along with one representative from Central America.