Trinidad and Tobago’s Under 20 men’s football team will begin their quest for a place in the 2013 FIFA Under 20 World Cup with an opening Caribbean Football Union Group 4 qualifier against Guyana at Victoria Park, Kingstown, St Vincent from 5:30pm on Wednesday.
The T&T team under interim head coach Ross Russell and captained by 1st Santa Rosa FC midfielder Duane Muckette arrived in Kingstown on Monday evening on a Caribbean Airlines charter flight and checked in at the Alexandrina Hotel where they will be based for the duration of the current group phase which will see them also play Suriname (August 10th) and St Vincent/Grenadines (August 12th).
The 27-member T&T contingent switched hotels on Monday night after the hotel initially arranged by the host association (as is customary for CFU qualifying tournaments) was unsatisfactory causing the team to change its base. The St Vincent FA acknowledged the decision and the difference in cost for the team’s stay at Hotel Alexandrina will be met by the Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation.
Russell didn’t see the early hiccup as a setback to T&T’s mental state ahead of Wednesday’s opener. “We are confident going into this first match but we are aware that the game will be no walk in the park,” Russell told TTFF Media ahead of a one hour training session on Tuesday evening at the outside field at the Arnos Vale Cricket Ground.
There were no goal posts on the field and a rugby and seven a side football team also occupied the field at the same time of the T&T one hour session. There were no officials from the host association present at the venue.
“We expect nothing such as an easy time when you come to islands like these to play in competitions. Thankfully we are in a great hotel now and the boys are comfortable and focused on the task ahead.
“Three points in our first game will be ideal but having done some research on the Guyana team, we are aware that they have a few players who have been with their senior World Cup team. This means they will have some experience and will pose a decent challenge.
But we have been preparing well for three months or so. The guys know they need to bring the energy and the fight into this tournament and we are simply waiting for the kick off with a lot of expectations,” Russell added.
Guyana has included Caledonia AIA midfielder Treyon Bobb in their squad for the three upcoming games. Bobb and teammates Daniel Wilson, Pernell Schultz and Les Charles Critchlow all have experience with the Guyana senior team which is still in the race for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
T&T meantime will rely on the strength of Muckette and W Connection and Olympic Team midfielder Jomal Williams in the middle of the park while Under 17 winger Akeem Garcia and Shannon Gomez are also in the mix. Several of T&T’s players have prior experience at the CONCACAF Under 17 level. Shackiel Henry could also pose a threat in the T&T frontline.
“We are anxious to get out onto the pitch and play,” Muckette said on the eve of the opening fixture.
“This is just the first leg of the competition and we know it’s a long road ahead but the key to us doing well is settling in early and getting good results and producing winning performances from match one. Most of the guys here are well experienced and they have been working hard and maintaining a desire to succeed. For me, that is a key ingredient and I’m hoping we can go out and get strong results in all these three matches,” the skipper added.
St Vincent will take on Suriname in the second encounter of the double header from 7:30pm
The group winner will automatically advance to the CFU final round in Jamaica in November while the three best second placed teams from the four preliminary groups will also advance to the Caribbean finals. The CONCACAF final round takes place in Puebla, Mexico in February, 2013 ahead of the U-20 World Cup in Turkey later in the year.