Trinidad and Tobago national under-17 coach Shawn Cooper expressed disappointment about his squad qualifying for the CONCACAF stage as the best third place team after being eliminated in the group stage of the Caribbean tournament in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
The young “Soca Warriors” lost 2-0 to St Lucia in their group opener and then 3-0 to Haiti but still squeezed through by virtue of having a better goal difference than Guadeloupe, who finished third in another group.
“I think the most important thing is that we are alive in the campaign still,” Cooper told the TTFA Media, “and we’ve got some work to do to get this team up to a level to be able to compete at the CONCACAF Finals next year.
“We are not happy with having to sneak in through the back door in this manner but being in it still is something which we are grateful for and it gives us an opportunity to come better for the next phase.”
For the final 20 minutes against Haiti, Trinidad and Tobago parked the bus to prevent a heavier lost to the host nation, which, in retrospect, might have been a key tactical decision. Cooper said his young players failed to handle the atmosphere in Port-au-Prince.
“I took a decision to play deep to ensure we didn’t concede more goals because Haiti were fully in charge of the game at that stage of the match,” he said. “Our boys were overwhelmed by a packed stadium with the hostile home fans who definitely had an impact as the twelfth man. It’s good experience for our boys who haven’t played in an atmosphere like this before but of course it worked in the home team’s favour.
“The early goals at the start of the second half killed the team spirit and threw us off.”
Cooper expects to have a stronger squad in place for the CONCACAF stage in Honduras next February.
“Now we will regroup,” said Cooper. “We have a few more players from the US and back home to get involved in the preparations and we’ll work towards fixing the areas that need addressing.
“We conceded several soft goals in this tournament and this is a concern which we will address.”
Apart from Trinidad and Tobago and hosts Honduras, Mexico, the United States, Canada, St Lucia, Haiti, Jamaica and Cuba will participate in the CONCACAF tournament while another four teams will qualify from Central America.
The CONCACAF tournament will use a new format with the 12 qualifiers divided into two groups of six where they will play a round-robin format on the first five match days. The group winners will earn a direct berth to the Chile 2015 FIFA Under-17 World Cup and a place in the final on the final day.
The second and third place teams from each group will be re-seeded into a four-team table, based on points obtained during group play. The top team from that table will play the fourth team while the second and third placed teams will face off with the winners grabbing the two remaining World Cup spots.