Trinidad and Tobago will not get the chance to defend their Under-20 Caribbean Cup title on Sunday as the young Soca Warriors were defeated 5-4 on penalties in tonight’s first semifinal fixture against Antigua and Barbuda at the Ergilio Hato Stadium in Willemstad, Curaçao.
The two nations played for 90 minutes into regulation time without a goal and it was also goalless at the end of extra time. But the “Benne Boys” were perfect from the spot—albeit with a touch of controversy as the match official ordered a retake after Trinidad and Tobago goalkeeper Denzil Smith blocked the first Antiguan effort—and won the chance to compete for the regional crown.
It will be a moment of history for Antigua and Barbuda, who have never played in a Caribbean Cup final at any level. They will not meet Haiti to decide the regional title from 7.30pm at the same venue on Sunday, after Haiti whipped Bermuda 3-0 in the second semifinal tonight
At the other end, National Under-20 coach Brian Williams can point to the fact that his team is still unbeaten in regulation time after seven matches and have already progressed to the CONCACAF competition. They will battle Bermuda for third place from 5pm on Sunday.
“It’s a disappointment yes, that we had to lose the match in the manner in which we did from the penalty kicks,” Williams told the TTFA media. “I felt we had good enough chances during the regular period of play to take the game but we were not as efficient as I would have liked. It is unfortunate that we had to end up in penalty kicks and then it was any team’s match at that stage.
“I know the players are disappointed as well because we’ve missed out on a chance of getting to the final.”
Williams inherited a team that squeaked into the 2015 Under-17 CONCACAF Championship after finishing fifth in the respective Caribbean tournament.
There were a string of absentees too as forward Jerren Nixon Jr and defender Jacob Sooklal were ruled out through injury, goalkeeper Jardel Poon-Lewis could not get time off from his United States-based school and the Shiva Boys Hindu College duo of playmaker Tyrel “Pappy” Emmanuel and winger Quinn Rodney were overlooked after they snubbed a training camp in Guyana.
Defender Kierron Mason pulled up lame in Curaçao while Isaiah Hudson also ruled himself out as his father, Brent Hudson, insisted that he be sent home immediately. Arguably, the biggest absence was that of striker Nicholas Dillon who scored eight of Trinidad and Tobago’s 18 goals on their 2017 Under-20 World Cup campaign.
Dillon was injured in the final Group B match against Haiti and was not even healthy enough to sit on the bench tonight. United States-based attacker, Taofik Lucas Walker, started upfront in his place.
Tonight’s stalemate was Trinidad and Tobago’s third goalless draw from four matches in Curaçao. And Smith, the Shiva Boys Hindu College schoolboy, has the distinction of playing four successive games without conceding a single goal.
However, from the penalty spot, midfield organiser and set piece specialist Kareem “Enzo” Riley was the unlucky player with the sole miss—Keston Julien, Noah Powder, Shane Sandy and captain Jabari Mitchell all scored for Trinidad and Tobago—as Antigua and Barbuda enjoyed a historic result.
“The better story for us is that we have been able to book our spot in the final round of CONCACAF and everyone here understands now that the focus towards that tournament in February starts now,” said Williams. “It’s going to take a lot of sacrifice, dedication and strong preparation for us to be ready to not just go there and play but to compete strongly and qualify for the  World Cup in South Korea.”
Trinidad and Tobago: 1.Denzil Smith (GK); 3.Kori Cupid, 5.Taryk Sampson, 12.Shane Sandy, 17.Keston Julien, 11.Kareem Riley, 19.Morgan Bruce (18.Josh Toussaint, 81st), 8.Jarred Dass (15.Kathon St Hillaire 46), 10.Jabari Mitchell (captain), 6.Noah Powder, 14.Taofik Lucas-Walker (16.Micah Lansiquot 58).
Unused substitutes: 20.Jabari Brice (GK), 2.Andrew Rullow, 13.Isaiah Garcia.
Injured: 4.Kierron Mason, 7.Isaiah Hudson, 9.Nicholas Dillon.
Head Coach: Brian Williams.