The Trinidad and Tobago national under-17 football team is through to the final Caribbean Football Union (CFU) round and one step closer to its ultimate goal of a berth at the Chile 2015 Under-17 World Cup.
Last night in St Lucia, the young “Soca Warriors” held off a fierce fight-back from the host team to win 3-2 at the Beausejour Stadium.
St Lucia only needed a draw to top the group but rarely looked like getting it. The Warriors scored first through Dereem Daniel and, although St Lucia equalised, Trinidad and Tobago then stormed to a commanding 3-1 lead thanks to a double from Anthony Herbert.
The host team pulled a goal back to give itself a glimmer of hope at 3-2 but coach Shawn Cooper’s troops held on to clinch the automatic qualifying spot thanks, in part, to a solid performance from captain Kareem Riley in central midfield.
There is likely to be consolation for the St Lucian squad that can still qualify as one of the best second place teams in the CFU preliminary round.
For Trinidad and Tobago, the mini-Caribbean adventure in St Lucia was the first taste of competitive action for the young men. And, paradoxically, the final CFU round might be mentally easier.
Eight Caribbean teams will play in the final round in Haiti next month and five will advance to the CONCACAF Under-17 Championship, which kicks off in San Sula, Honduras on 27 February 2015.
Mathematically speaking, it is easier to qualify from Haiti than it is to be eliminated. The four best CONCACAF teams in San Sula will go on to play at the 2015 Under-17 World Cup.
Trinidad and Tobago’s next competitive match is against Barbados on 26 September 2014 while the Warriors’ group also includes host Haiti and the preliminary round’s best runner up.
The CFU rules does not out rule out the possibility that St Lucia could again end up facing the Warriors in the group stage of the next round.
Another quirk of the competition is that only results against the group winner and third placed team are used to calculate the best runner-up, since one qualifying group had just three nations. Without that rule, St Lucia would already have qualified by virtue of winning two of its three matches.
The Trinidad and Tobago teenagers spared themselves from that charade by maintaining a 100 percent record at the Beausejour Stadium.