First, the good news: the present Trinidad and Tobago national under-20 women’s team is just 90 minutes away from becoming the first local team to ever qualify for a FIFA women’s competition.
The “Soca Princesses” meet Costa Rica from 5 pm on Sunday at the Truman Bodden Sports Complex in George Town, Cayman Islands and the winner will join Mexico and the United States at the Canada 2014 Under-20 Women’s World Cup. The game will be broadcast live on CTV courtesy the Ministry of Sport.
The bad news is that the Princesses head into tomorrow’s game on the back of two fierce spankings after conceding nine goals in their last two games against Mexico and the US without troubling the scorers themselves.
Trinidad and Tobago had never advanced from the group stage in CONCACAF before. Predictably, the Princesses found the “Yankees”, the number one ranked team in the women’s game, to be an untamable foe.
The United States led 4-0 by halftime and 6-0 at the final whistle. In the earlier semifinal at the Truman Bodden, Mexico whipped Costa Rica 3-1 to set up the final fixtures on Sunday.
The US and Mexico will play for the honour of being top nation in one of the toughest regions in women’s football. And Costa Rica and Trinidad and Tobago will fight for the right to join them at the World Cup.
At least the Princesses will know that the worst is behind them.
Before kick off, Trinidad and Tobago technical director Anton Corneal suggested that the squad would aim to play fairly deep and not indulge the United States in an open battle. It was a strategy that bore Sunday’s third place play off in mind and was meant to conserve as much energy as possible for the presumably more winnable contest.
Regular goalkeeper Tenesha Palmer got the night off while speedy defender Khadisha Debesette and influential winger Patrice Campbell were both rested.
The United States had no time for Trinidad and Tobago’s conundrum. Within seconds, the North Americans were already finding holes in the opposing set up, particularly via the aerial route.
US striker Savannah Johnson headed a decent chance over after just 90 seconds while the opening item also came off a cross as McKenzie Meehan headed home from a deep, well worked free kick in the 13th minute.
The “Yankees” scored twice more from headers. Stephanie Amack powered a header past Trinidad and Tobago goalkeeper Keri Myers in the 39th minute after another driven free kick from Andi Sullivan. And Meehan converted a neat glancing header in the 65th minute after teammate Summer Green headed on a cross from substitute Mallory Weber.
Otherwise, Savannah Johnson scored with a crisp drive after being played behind the Trinidad and Tobago defence in the 27th minute, Amack crashed a rebound into the roof of the net after Myers blocked a cross with her feet in the 33rd minute and Weber hit into an open net in the 86th minute following a cross from fellow substitute Margaret Purce.
Myers did have her moments with the highlight being a splendid save to her right at full stretch to keep out a Weber rocket in the 51st minute.
In contrast, Trinidad and Tobago’s offence never had the chance to assert itself and did not manage a single shot in target. A solitary effort from team captain Anique Walker, which was wide in the 58th minute, was good as it got for the Princesses.
Costa Rica is in no position to jeer at the Princesses’ discomfort though.
The Costa Rican ladies lost 6-0 to the US at group stage before their 3-1 semifinal loss to Mexico. So, both teams conceded nine times from CONCACAF’s finalists although Costa Rica managed one goal more than Trinidad and Tobago in response.
Sunday’s third place play off should be a much more evenly matched contest for the Princesses although they should be wary of an opponent that scored first against Mexico and were locked at 1-1 up until the 67th minute.
But which team will be mentally fresher and more aggressive on Sunday?
If Trinidad and Tobago coach Izler Browne’s young ladies can shake off their two hammerings this week, a World Cup place is there for the taking.
“This is what we’ve trained hard for, this is what we spend all these hours preparing and working towards,” Browne told TTFA Media. “As a player, it was always an ambition but now the opportunity is there for these girls and it would be a most fitting achievement (…) to get to an Under 20 Women’s World Cup.
“I really want it for these players and for the overall development of the women’s game in the country.”
Trinidad and Tobago: 1.Keri Myers (GK); 14.Otisha David, 8.Daniella Findley, 17.Jonelle Warrick, 18.Liana Hinds; 11.Khadidra Debesette (vice-captain) (16.Summer Arjoon 82), 4.Brianna Ryce 12.Shanisa Camejo (3.Emma Abdul 46), 15.Donika Murray; 19.Anique Walker (captain) (7.Akilah Sparks 68), 13.Shenelle Henry,
Unused substitutes: 20.Tenesha Palmer (GK), 2.Tkeyah Phillips, 5.Adeka Spence, 6.Khadisha Debesette, 9.Patrice Campbell, 10.Tsaianne Leander.
Coach: Izler Browne
CONCACAF U-20 Semi-finals
(Fri January 17)
United States 6 (McKenzie Meehan 13, 65, Savannah Johnson 27, Stephanie Amack 33, 39, Mallory Weber 86), Trinidad and Tobago 0 at Truman Bodden
Mexico 3 (Palomo Zermano 32, Fabiola Ibarra 67, Jessica Valadez 73), Costa Rica 1 (Jazmine Elizondo 17) at Truman Bodden
CONCACAF U-20 Third Place Play-Off
(Sun January 19)
Trinidad and Tobago vs Costa Rica, 5 pm, Truman Bodden, George Town
CONCACAF U-20 Finals
(Sun January 19)
Mexico vs United States, 8 pm, Truman Bodden, George Town