Trinidad and Tobago captain Afiyah Cornwall became the first player to score four times for the twin island republic in a Concacaf tournament, as the Women Soca Warriors opened their 2020 Under-20 World Cup qualifying campaign today with a 6-0 win over St Kitts and Nevis at the Estadio Panamericano in San Cristóbal, Dominican Republic.
It was Trinidad and Tobago’s largest ever victory in a Concacaf tournament and eclipsed their 5-1 win over Guyana on 16 February 2016 in the Olympic qualifying tournament. Current Under-20 Women’s head coach, Richard Hood, has the distinction of overseeing both landmark results.
Cornwall also put her name into the local archives with her beaver-trick, as she grabbed all three Trinidad and Tobago goals in the first half before closing off the score summary with a blast in second half stoppage time.
The Women Warriors’ best prior individual mark in Concacaf came in the 2014 Under-15 Championship when Laurelle Theodore scored a hattrick in T&T’s 5-2 win over Honduras in the third-place play off.
“I’m proud of my performance,” Cornwall told the TTFA Media, after the final whistle. “I’m just happy to have played my part in getting the three points. The last goal was amazing and it couldn’t have come at a better time to cap off the win for us.
“Like I said, the important thing for us was to get the win and hopefully we can keep on growing as the tournament goes on.”
Cornwall and her troops play the Cayman Islands in their second Group F match on Tuesday afternoon and another win would confirm their place in the Round of 16, even before they battle Haiti—potentially for group supremacy—on Thursday 27 February.
Hood was relatively pleased with their showing today.
“I think it was important for us to get off to a good start,” said Hood. “The girls started a bit nervously which is expected. However they settled down well and we started the move the ball the way we wanted to [and] press the way we wanted to. And we scored an early goal which I think we really helped to calm the nerves.”
Haiti, who are considered genuine World Cup contenders, face the Cayman Islands in their tournament opener later this afternoon.
The St Kitts and Nevis Women’s National Senior Team were unbeaten in their last two competitive contests with Trinidad and Tobago and had the satisfaction of eliminating the Women Warriors from the Olympic qualifying campaign last year.
Their success appeared to create a conundrum for the ‘Sugar Girlz’ who had Concacaf Olympic competition in January and then the Under-20 tournament in February. St Kitts had more than a half dozen players eligible for both but, since the majority of those are North America-based university students, they were forced to choose between the competitions.
In the end, St Kitts Under-20 coach Orrin Huges only had the services of five players from their Olympic squad and just two girls, midfielder Kaylee Bennett and flanker Iyanla Bailey-Williams, from the team that whipped T&T 4-1 in Couva last October.
And even the injection of two new overseas-based players to their roster—which brought their overall tally to six—could not save the Sugar Girlz from a sweet licking by the resurgent Warriors.
Hood admitted that his troops had revenge in mind.
“The girls had in mind the last time St Kitts beat our senior team and they wanted to have that bit of a revenge today so they were motivated to play this game,” said Hood.
There were only two minutes and 45 seconds on the clock when Cornwall put T&T ahead. Flanker Maria-Frances Serrant stole the ball from opposing left back Bailey-Williams and crossed low into the area. Cornwall hooked the ball first time into the far corner for the opening item.
The Trinidad and Tobago captain doubled her tally with a clinical finish in the 24th minute, as she ran on to a lofted pass behind the opposing defence.
By then, coach Hood’s tactical approach was clear. The Police FC boss spent the past week working on quick transitions and intensity and St Kitts and Nevis just did not have a response.
When the Sugar Girlz got behind the opposing press, they found T&T central defender Latifha Pascall to be a formidable screen. Pascall’s sister, Aaliyah Pascall, was a tigerish presence in midfield too alongside Sarah De Gannes, who also put in a good shift.
Kittian forward Jahzara Claxton rapped the outside of goalkeeper K’lil Keshwar’s upright in the 50th minute. Otherwise, Trinidad and Tobago never looked like conceding.
St Kitts goalkeeper Quinn Josiah, who plays in Canada, managed to take the sting out of a goal-bound Cornwall attempt in the 37th minute. But there was nothing she or her teammates could do about the former Carapichaima East student’s item in first half stoppage time. And they all tried!
Surrounded by opponents at the edge of the St Kitts and Nevis penalty area, Cornwall accepted the challenge. First, she was too strong and dogged for opposing midfielder Zania Marshall, as she lost and then regained possession of the ball.
Once in control, Cornwall dipped her shoulder and danced to her right to glide past Eve Richards and then Bailey-Williams before holding off Jollincia Clarke to set her sights. Then, she beat the angle too with a low, right footed strike that arrowed into the far corner.
Concacaf’s on-air commentator could not help but burst into spontaneous applause.
An injury to flanker Tori Paul, late in the first half, saw Aaliyah Prince introduced off the bench; and, just 55 seconds after the interval, she got Trinidad and Tobago’s fourth goal with a tidy finish off a fine right side cross by overlapping full back Chrissy Mitchell.
Serrant scored the Warriors’ fifth in the 58th minute, as Richards failed to deal with another lofted Trinidad and Tobago pass and the speedy attacker rounded substitute goalkeeper Craivecia Sutton to convert.
And, just in case anybody forgot whose party it was, Cornwall collected a pass from another substitute, Alexcia Ali, stepped to her right and beat Sutton with a cracking strike from the edge of the area.
Hood was full of praise for his skipper after the final whistle.
“Afiyah [Cornwall] is a monster for us right now and she can’t seem to do any wrong,” said the National Under-20 head coach. “She is leading the line and leading the team well. She is motivating players around her and working hard offensively and defensively.
“I couldn’t ask more of her today and I’m really proud and happy for her getting the four goals today.”
Before the tournament kicked off, Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) technical committee chairman Keith Look Loy spelt out the responsibility of Hood and his young ladies.
“[The Women’s Under-20 Team] are our first battalion into the field and they have to fly the flag,” said Look Loy, who is part of a new administration voted into office last November. “[…] This is not just football; this is about a bigger thing—Trinidad and Tobago. The women are first into the field and they have to fly that battle flag.”
It has not been smooth sailing for new TTFA president William Wallace, with the football body’s bank account frozen by one creditor while promised sponsorship dollars and even the annual Fifa subvention are yet to arrive.
But, on the field, Cornwall and company ensured a positive headline as the U-20 Women look set to become the second Trinidad and Tobago team to advance to the Concacaf knockout stage since 2015.
“It was important to keep a clean sheet,” said Hood. “We gave up a couple chances but it was good to keep the clean sheet. We don’t want to concede any goals and we work harder on defence than on attack.
“Our defensive shape can improve. We have some work to do on the back four. We will get better with every game but the most part I was satisfied with the organisation and communication.”
Trinidad and Tobago (4-2-3-1): 1.K’lil Keshwar (GK); 11.Chrissy Mitchell, 4.Latifha Pascall, 5.Tsai-Anne Fernandez, 3.Nathifa Hackshaw (15.Arnelle Douglas 61); 7.Sarah De Gannes, 6.Aaliyah Pascall; 8.Maria-Frances Serrant, 12.Cayla McFarlane (10.Alexcia Ali 78), 20.Tori Paul (19.Aaliyah Prince 43); 9.Afiyah Cornwall (captain).
Unused substitutes: 18.Chelsea Ramnauth (GK), 2.Roshun Williams, 13.Megan Rampersad, 14.Moenesa Mejias, 16.Sydni Greaves, 17.Cecile Loraine.
Coach: Richard Hood
St Kitts and Nevis (4-1-4-1): 1.Quinn Josiah (GK) (2.Craivecia Sutton [GK] 53); 14.Eve Richards, 20.Shitoncia Stapleton, 4.Kaleah Smith, 11.Iyanla Bailey-Williams; 6.Christi-Anne Mills (captain) (15.Hadassah St Juste 72); 8.Kaylee Bennett, 10.Jasonna Williams, 7.Zania Marshall, 16.Jollincia Clarke (13.Jarencia Jeffers 46); 9.Jahzara Claxton.
Unused substitutes: 3.Glenecia Battice, 5.Geniah Demming, 12.Kaara Williams, 18.Melissa Drew, 19.Malaika Rouse.
Coach: Orrin Huges
Wired868 Play of the Match: Afiyah Cornwall (Trinidad and Tobago)
Concacaf U-20 results
(Sunday 23 February)
Trinidad and Tobago 6 (Afiyah Cornwall 3, 24, 45+3, 90, Aaliyah Prince 46, Maria-Frances Serrant 58), St Kitts and Nevis 0 in Group F;
Haiti 8 (Melchie Dumornay 4, 86 pen, Dayana Pierre 8, Valentina Ornis 24, 30, Florsie Joseph 70, 75, Flero Supris 89), Cayman Islands 0 in Group F;
(Saturday 22 February)
United States 9 (Mia Fishel 9, 13, 42, 45+1, Brianna Pinto 16, 90, Alexa Spaanstra 37, Summer Yates 67, Samantha Meza 68), Cuba 0 in Group C;
Dominican Republic 7 (Liliane Clase 16, 33, Alissa Oviedo 57, 59, Mia Asenjo 4, Kristian Garcia 13, Brieana Hallo 85), Honduras 0 in Group C;
Guatemala 4 (Sandra Ovando 12, Andrea Alvarez 26, 78, Maria Recinos 34), Jamaica 4 (Jody Brown 50, Marlee Fray 53, 68, 76) in Group E;
Canada 2 (Tanya Boychuk 56, Kaila Novak 71), El Salvador 0 in Group E.