NATIONAL Women’s football team defender Ayanna Russell is among the current pool of players in training under coach Jamaal Shabazz ahead of the start of forthcoming CONCACAF Women’s World Cup qualification in May.
Details on the opening phase are set to be announced shortly by CONCACAF but the local pool has two matches against Panama Women’s team to look forward on March 22 and 24 at the Ato Boldon Stadium and Manny Ramjohn Stadium respectively.
“Everyone is excited to play these two games. We have some of the youngsters integrated into the bunch now so it’s going to be a very exciting and interesting experience for us,” Russell said.
“These games will help a lot. You cannot really mimic an international friendly. Yes you can play against local teams and yes that is playing time and match fitness but being able to play international friendlies is a good preparation with even something such as just hearing the FIFA anthem played before the game. It will be a good evaluation for us,” Russell said.
Russell spoke highly of the TTFA’s efforts to keep the local squad together with the introduction of the monthly retainer contracts.
“Definitely the biggest thing is being able to contract the players and have them full time. In the past it’s been crazy because we usually would come together three weeks or a month before a tournament. Now we have double sessions twice a week and training almost everyday which is definitely helping now with the senior team,” she added.
“We actually have a lot of players from the last squad so we still have the core together. We are missing a few but some of the foreign-based will come for the games in March. For the most part we have a very strong pool and with the young ones coming up it’s matter of getting them up to a good standard so going into the qualification phase we can have at least 25-30 good players in the squad,” Russell stated.
Russell attended University of Alabama, Birmingham in 2008 an Wayland University in 2010 where she was eventually enrolled as an assistant coach. She was part of the squad that narrowly missed out on the 2015 Women’s World Cup with the last match defeat to Ecuador. Russell said that the dream of qualifying for a World Cup is still very strong among the surviving members of that squad who are still in the mix.
“Preparations have been good at the moment. That dream still exists very strongly in me and and among the other girls. It is a still a possibility. We are going to work ten times harder than we did last time and do everything we didn’t do in 2014.
“That experience (2014) is going to have a huge impact. I still can’t get over December 2nd because I knew to myself it was ours then but I know that nothing happens before its time. This time around, not that we didn’t work hard four years ago but now we will take care of everything mentally, physically, socially… everything that we need to do to ensure that we have that cohesion on the field and realise that dream this time, “ Russell added.
The 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup will be the eighth edition of the FIFA Women’s World Cup, the quadrennial international women’s football championship contested by the national teams of the member associations of FIFA between June 7 and July 7 2019.
In March 2015, France won the right to host the event; the first time the country will host the tournament, and the third time Europe will. Matches are planned for eleven cities across France. The current format of the tournament is 24 competing teams, including the host nation. The defending champions are the United States.