The Trinidad and Tobago Men’s National Under-20 Team closed off their Guadeloupe Six-Nation Invitational tournament yesterday evening with a 3-1 win over French Guiana to avoid the dreaded wooden spoon.
Midfielder John-Paul Rochford came off the bench to score twice and create T&T’s other goal for Shaqkeem Joseph, as the young Soca Warriors claimed fifth place—after opening defeats to Costa Rica and Martinique.
Costa Rica defeated Haiti via penalty kicks in the final while Martinique defeated hosts Guadeloupe 2-1 in the third place play-off.
With a manic schedule of three games in as many days, National Under-20 coach Russell Latapy made five changes to his starting team for their final outing. Goalkeeper Jabari Brice, defender Jesse Williams and midfielders Shem Clauzel and Darnell Charles all got their first starts of the competition while winger Jordan Riley returned to the first team after featuring as a substitute against Martinique.
“We started with some players who hadn’t played as much over the first two games,” Latapy told the TTFA Media, “as I wanted to give every player some time to gain experience and show what they are capable of. We didn’t pass the ball as well as we can but I thought we had the better of the first half, creating a few chances on goal.
“But another lapse in concentration saw us concede and we had to come back and work ourselves back into the match, which I thought we did well in by showing character and taking charge of the match.”
Incidentally, Rochford is the only member of Latapy’s 18-man squad who did not get a single start in Guadeloupe, despite the fact that the QRC student had scored their lone goal of the tour up to that point.
With the Warriors trailing 0-1 at the interval, Latapy turned to Rochford once more. And the diminutive playmaker pulled Trinidad and Tobago level within seconds.
The two-island republic finally went ahead in the 60th minute, after a Rochford assist for Joseph. And Rochford doubled their advantage with his third goal of the competition in the 66th minute.
Latapy applauded the second half turnaround but stressed that his players must add work ethic to their natural talent if they are to succeed at this level.
“With the changes at halftime, we started to take control of the midfield and created better chances, which we took with two really good finishes,” said Latapy. “[…] Players are now understanding that international football has some key elements, which include hard work, desire to give everything and tactical awareness.
“It’s not only about technical ability, which we are fortunate to possess. [We] still [have] work to do to get up to the level at which we want to be at.”
The Trinidad and Tobago National Under-20s begin their 2019 Under-20 World Cup qualifying campaign in November, although it is uncertain what games they have lined up before then as they were denied entry to the Trinidad and Tobago Super League (TTSL) after failing to pay their registration fee.
Trinidad and Tobago U-20: 20.Jabari Brice (GK), 2.Kerdell Sween, 3.Derron John (4.Jabari Graham 53), 5.Jesse Williams, 12.Darnell Hospedales, 7.Shem Clauzel (15.John Paul Rochford 46), 14.Darnell Charles (8.Anthony Samuel 60), 16.Isa Bramble (10.Judah Garcia 46), 17.Shaqkeem Joseph, 11.Jordan Riley (6.Brandon Semper 30), 13.Kishon Hackshaw.
Unused substitute: 1.Denzil Smith (GK).
Coach: Russell Latapy.