Trinidad and Tobago’s dreams of being 2016’s Caribbean Football Union (CFU) Men’s Under-17 champions were dashed last night following a heartbreaking 3-2 loss to Jamaica at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva.
However, the faintest hopes of advancing to the CONCACAF stage are still alive for the young Soca Warriors, as the best third-place team from the two groups will advance to the next round.
With five out of eight teams already guaranteed to advance to the next round, it looked tough for the boys in the red, white and black not to qualify. But, coach Russell Latapy’s charges now find themselves in the same predicament that his predecessor Shawn Cooper’s Under-17 team were in two years ago.
Cooper’s team also mustered three points in the group stage, and they were fortunate enough to better a third-place Guadeloupe in the other group as they had a goal difference of minus-two compared to Guadeloupe’s goal difference of minus-six (-6).
Latapy’s crop have also seen their goal differential slip into the red and they will be hoping for some favorable Group B results at the Hasely Crawford Stadium today.
Cuba currently heads the Group B standings with six points, while Curacao and Suriname have three points each. Curacao has a plus-one goal differential while Suriname’s stands at naught. Curacao will be expected to overcome a pointless Guadeloupe team, which conceded six goals against Cuba on Wednesday, while the Cuba and Suriname encounter promises to be a much tighter affair.
For Latapy and his young brigade’s sake, thumping wins for Curacao and Cuba will do no harm.
Speaking of thumping, the Haitians were definitely in no mood to mess around as they hammered Bermuda by a 5-nil margin. Once again, Steeve Saint-Duc led the way for the 2014 CFU Under-17 Champions as he notched a brace while bagging his third consecutive Man of the Match award.
Trinidad and Tobago’s win over Bermuda on Sunday was quite a contrast, as the local team fought tooth and nail to earn the dramatic comeback victory; exhilarating celebrations and all. Spectators at the Ato Boldon Stadium must have thought they were watching a sequel last night as the hosts were down 2-0 inside the first half for the second straight game.
With reigning Olympic Champions in both the Men’s and Women’s 100 metre sprints, there was no real surprise that the Jamaicans shot out of the blocks quickly. The tricky Kaheem Parris started the game lively and the “Reggae Boyz” were looking ominous.
In the 13th minute, the visitors showed the frailties in TT’s back line—it was the third different combination that Latapy used for the three games—as the robust Raewin Senior rocketed a left-footed shot into the roof of the net after the defence was caught unawares by a Coby Atkinson pass from the left flank.
“[Trinidad and Tobago] leave a lot of space in certain areas and we wanted to exploit that,” Jamaican coach, Andrew Edwards, said at the post-game conference. “We realized also that the defensive line of Trinidad [and Tobago] wasn’t the strongest and we knew we could outrun them and out jump them.”
Senior was looking just as his surname suggested as he was getting what we wanted from the TT defence, while Parris was tormenting left-back Brandon Semper on the wing. On the other hand, the likes of Kishorn Hackshaw and the diminutive Che Benny barely had space to themselves in the attacking third.
Jamaica’s game plan was certainly working well.
The hosts fell into deeper trouble in the 36th minute, as Nicque Daley rose unopposed to head in a Parris corner. Perhaps, the more worrying sign for “Latas” and his coaching staff came mere seconds earlier when Parris prevented the ball from going out for a corner and nonchalantly tricked his way past the pair of Semper and centre back Jesse Williams.
Semper’s night did not last much longer as he was replaced in the 38th minute by attacker Nion Lammy. But there were still leaks in the TT defence. Latapy swapped his conventional back-four for a back-three, and two minutes into the second half, the substitute Lammy nodded his way into the score sheet.
Parris certainly kept the hosts in the contest as he missed a gaping goal in the 50th minute after some more poor defending. And as fate would have it, TT stand-in skipper Jaydon Prowell headed in the equalizer seven minutes later after meeting a cushioned cross by Isaiah Hudson.
“I thought for this whole tournament we suffered too many goals,” coach Latapy said. “Our form players needed a platform where we could go and win games and I just felt that throughout the tournament, coming into this game, we were chasing the game and we had to make a lot of changes to chase the game. And it didn’t help us.”
All of a sudden, the Jamaicans were second to every loose ball, and the Trinidad and Tobago players were hungrier and sharper. Jodel Brown, who was the workhorse and real driving force in the midfield for the hosts, got into a bit of “afters” with Senior right under referee Trevor Taylor’s nose on the hour mark. But maybe Brown had awoken the sleeping tiger.
First, Senior reminded the young Warriors of his threat in the 65th minute when his powerful left-footed shot sailed just over bar. And then in the 74th minute he put the game to bed after a shot was deflected into his path.
Were the hosts too attacking after getting back on level terms in the second period?
“We have a young bunch of players and I thought tonight in the second half when we got back into the game we just needed a bit more experience to continue playing the way we were playing. I think we just got a bit overexcited,” Latapy said.
The last 15 minutes were nerve-wracking for the Couva crowd, who again turned up in decent numbers to support the home team. But the closest TT got to mustering another equalizer would be when Jamaica’s regular captain Jerermy Verley sent a misplaced header agonizingly wide of his own goal in the 79th minute.
“Again I will say it was a great effort from them. I’m proud of the team,” Latapy said. “But the reality of the football is that we just weren’t good enough. And we’re heading out of this tournament […] it is a difficult period for these young men. The reality is that we are dependent on other results from other games now.”
What would Latapy like to see for the Under-17 system going forward?
“Not only the Under-17s but every team that we have needs consideration. And that’s the situation that we are in. The tournaments that they have for these young players are very far in between […] I’m saying we have to have a continuation programme.
“We’re asking young men, fifteen and sixteen years-old, to play football for three months at the highest level and we throw them into situations without being properly prepared. So that is one of the changes I think the Federation wants to make and I think that is why [TTFA president David John-Williams] brought me back in.”
And of course, there is always the question of time. Did Latapy feel as though he had enough time to work his magic?
“The reality for any coach is that you have never have enough time because there is always something to work on. But three or four weeks to be hired coming into a tournament is definitely not enough time. There’s [sic] too many things I have to work with for a tournament of this importance. It was a hard act, and again I must commend the young men, I thought they did really well, I thought they played their hearts out.”
With destiny firmly out of their grasp now, Latapy and his Under-17 team will be hoping to sing the “God is ah Trini” refrain when Group B action concludes today at the Hasely Crawford Stadium.
Trinidad and Tobago (4-3-3): 1.Emmanuel John (GK); 12.Jerrin Jackie, 2.Kerdell Sween, 5.Jesse Williams, 6.Brandon Semper (19.Nion Lammy 38); 8.Jodel Brown (15.John-Paul Rochford 86), 7.Isaiah Hudson, 10.Che Benny (13.Luke Singh 72); 14.Kishon Hackshaw, 9.Jaydon Prowell (captain), 16.Nickel Orr.
Unused Substitutes: 20.Elijah Shade (GK); 3.Keon Boney, 4.Tyrike Andrews, 11.Tyrese Bailey, 17.Omar Da Naia, 18.Jonathan Godette.
Coach: Russell Latapy
Jamaica (4-3-3): 13.Tajay Griffiths (GK); 12.Kimmani Gibbons, 6.Nickache Murray (captain), 2.Kendall Edwards, 3.Damani Osei; 16.Blake White (4.Jeremy Verley 54), 8.Coby Atkinson, 10.Renato Campbell; 7.Kaheem Parris (18.Jordan Peterkin 78), 9.Raewin Senior, 14.Nicque Daley (20.Chad Letts 65).
Unused Substitutes: 1.Daniel Russell (GK), 11.Omar Thompson, 15.Horace Ramsay, 17.Jamari Morrison, 19.Cal-Wayne Allen.
Coach: Andrew Edwards
Referee: Trevor Taylor (Barbados)
Man of the Match: Raewin Senior (Jamaica)
CFU Men’s Under-17 Group Results
Friday September 16
Bermuda 2 (Rahzir Smith-Jones 30, Tokiya Russell 81), Jamaica 6 (Raewin Senior 5, Kaheem Parris 17, 72, Kendall Edwards 36, Nicque Daley 42, Tokiya Russell 90+1 [own goal]), Ato Boldon Stadium;
Trinidad and Tobago 0, Haiti 2 (Nael Elysee 22, Steeve Saint-Duc 68), Ato Boldon Stadium;
Saturday September 17
Guadeloupe 0, Suriname 2 (Archero Heover 21, 52), Hasely Crawford Stadium;
Cuba 2 (Yandri Romero 37, Ribaldo Roldan 78), Curacao 1 (Shurendic Fransinet 57), Hasely Crawford Stadium;
Sunday September 18
Jamaica 0, Haiti 0, Ato Boldon Stadium;
Trinidad and Tobago 3 (Che Benny 70, Jaydon Prowell 73, 90+2), Bermuda 2 (Tokia Russell 11, 26), Ato Boldon Stadium;
Monday September 19
Guadeloupe 0, Cuba 6 (Yandri Romeo 31 , Ribaldo Roldan 35′, Cristian Turks 58′, Manuel Cruz 75′, Brian Sivigne 86′, 90+3′), Hasely Crawford Stadium;
Suriname 1 (Janiro Eenig 4), Curacao 3 (Nathan Bernardina 10, 29), Hasely Crawford Stadium;
Tuesday September 20
Haiti 5, Bermuda 0, Ato Boldon Stadium;
Trinidad and Tobago 2 (Nion Lammy 47, Jaydon Prowell 57), Jamaica 3 (Raewin Senior 13, 74, Nicque Daley 36), Ato Boldon Stadium.