The Trinidad and Tobago national under-17 football team must defy an expectant host nation to fulfill its World Cup dreams as the young “Soca Warriors” will face Panama in a CONCACAF qualifying match from 9 pm on Saturday at the Estadio Agustín Muquita Sánchez in La Chorrera, Panama.
The winner will automatically advance to the United Arab Emirates 2013 FIFA Under-17 World Championship, which kicks off on October 7.
“I’m elated to see the team reach to this point,” Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation (TTFF) technical director Anton Corneal told the TTFF Media. “They have worked hard but we haven’t qualified as yet… We know (Panama) will not roll over but our guys are confident and very focused. They know we are ninety minutes away from a once in a lifetime achievement for them.”
Last night, Canada and Costa Rica played to a 1-1 draw in the final Group B match, which meant that Canada and Trinidad and Tobago finished in first and second place respectively while Costa Rica was eliminated.
Canada defeated Trinidad and Tobago 2-0 last Saturday but the Warriors rebounded to beat Costa Rica by the same scoreline on Monday with terrific individual goals from midfielder Andre Fortune and striker Brent Sam. It was the first time Trinidad and Tobago ever defeated a Costa Rican national team at any level in a World Cup qualifying match.
Now, only the resurgent host nation stands in the Warriors’ way.
Canada faces Jamaica in another quarterfinal fixture while the Caribbean’s other three representatives, Barbados, Haiti and Cuba, were all eliminated at the group stage.
Trinidad and Tobago played in the 2001 FIFA Under-17 World Cup as host nation with the likes of Stoke City striker Kenwyne Jones, Central FC captain Marvin Phillip and St Ann’s Rangers custodian Jan-Michael Williams in the squad.
And the two-island republic qualified for the 2007 edition with a team that featured Racing Genk midfielder Khaleem Hyland, Mechelen defender Sheldon Bateau and DIRECTV W Connection utility player Daneil Cyrus.
The class of 2013, led by captain Brendon Creed, can join its illustrious predecessors this weekend.
The Warriors will have to do it without defender Maurice Ford who is suspended after being cautioned in both group matches. Sam, a six foot two striker, received seven stitches to his mouth after suffering a blow against Costa Rica. But he is free to play on the weekend.
Corneal, who coached the 2007 to the World Cup, praised the spirit and talent within the present squad and credited the financial support from the Sport Ministry that aided the squad’s preparation. The national under-17 captain, Creed, is the nephew of Sport Ministry Permanent Secretary Ashwin Creed.
“This bunch has worked very hard to get where they are now and the staff has done everything possible to get them to this stage,” said Corneal. “A lot of sacrifices have been made. We were fortunate to get a fair amount of practice games which helped a lot in the ending.
“It’s a balanced team. They are solid in defense and they do well going from defense into attack. We are able to pin teams down for longer periods than we have before.
“There is a lot going for this team but on the day we have to play for the win and we have to make that very clear now. Nobody is gong to give us anything and we must take that game and make it ours on Saturday.”
Trinidad and Tobago U-17: 1.Johan Welch (GK), 2.Shannon Gomez, 3.Maurice Ford, 4.Josiah Trimmingham, 5.Leland Archer, 6.Brendon Creed (capt), 7.Kishun Seecharan, 8.Aikim Andrews, 9.Akeem Garcia, 10.Matthew Woo Ling, 11.Jarred Dass, 12.Jabari Mitchell, 13.Anderson Toussaint, 14.Andre Fortune, 15.Brent Sam, 16.Levi Garcia, 17.Martieon Watson, 18.Sterling Noreiga, 19.Weah Adams, 21.Stephon Seepersad (GK).
Coach: Shawn Cooper