Wednesday 13 April 2016, 12:57

Crowther banking on lessons learned

Jacqueline Crowther headed into the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup Costa Rica 2014 with high hopes of glory. Reality hit hard, however, when her Mexico side had their hopes dashed by Japan in the quarter-finals. The shock of elimination hit the teenager like a bucket of cold water, with the team’s longing to make history remaining precisely that – a longing.

However, life sometimes gives you the chance to make amends, and for this generation of players, that chance has come around just two years later. After finishing third in the CONCACAF U-20 Women’s Championship 2015 behind USA and Canada, Las Aztecas will join them in flying the flag for the region at the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup Papua New Guinea 2016.

“I’m thrilled that we’ve qualified,” said the dexterous forward in an exclusive chat with “From now on we’ll be working very hard, which will allow us to improve on the form we showed at the U-17 World Cup. That said, we still have a lot more work to do, but fortunately we have time between now and November to fine-tune things,” added the Baylor University player.

Hurdles to clear Now 18, Crowther's path to international football has been far from easy. Despite having what it takes to represent El Tri – her potent shooting and powerful heading being just two of her attributes – a health issue jeopardised her national team call-up.

“I have some problems with my respiratory tract and had to see many doctors to try to find out what exactly it was. Finally, they diagnosed vocal chord dysfunction, which causes some problems in the muscles of my throat. Because of that, sometimes I couldn’t breathe properly. It was very tough at first as I have to do special exercises to control my breathing. But with time and discipline I overcame it and now I can give 100 per cent to the national team,” she explained sincerely.

Now with her health problem behind her, or properly managed at least, Jacqueline can focus fully on Papua New Guinea 2016, where she hopes to bring to bear all the experience acquired in Costa Rica. “I learned a great deal there. Back then when we were preparing for the U-17 World Cup, we faced sides that were not as strong as those we’re currently going up against. Now, we’re taking on teams like Brazil, USA, Japan – essentially the best teams in the world,” said the player who found the net twice during the regional qualifiers for this year’s showcase event.

“We know we have to train ten times harder and also change our mentality," Crowther added. "We need to be conscious of the fact that we’re at another World Cup and playing in a different age category.

"We have to be much better than before but also possess the confidence that we’re one of the top teams in the world and capable of drawing with Canada or USA, as we did in the qualifiers. With the work we’re doing now, we’re going to be among the best there."

Always aiming high With the draw already made for the opening round of the World Cup, El Tri find themselves in Group D alongside Germany, Korea Republic and Venezuela. While certainly a complicated section, the player, far from being overawed, is looking on the positive side: “It’s going to very difficult but I’m excited about the teams we’ve drawn. I think we had a manageable group at the U-17 World Cup but when we went up against Nigeria and Japan, two strong, established sides, we lost. It’s exciting to be in a harder group as we'll have to be at our best from the beginning of the tournament to its very end, which is how far we want to go,” said Jackie, who scored once at Costa Rica 2014 during a group-phase encounter with Colombia.

With the objectives in place and the targets clearly identified, there’s only one word Jacqueline Crowther is willing to countenance, and that’s winning. “I want to be the best I can in this moment. Collectively we also want to be among the best at this World Cup and are looking to compete and represent our country with a passion. Our team has spirit and desire and we want to translate that into our play,” insisted the striker who, in her short career, has already proven herself capable of triumphing over adversity.