T&T footballers get tough PanAm Games draw.

Both T&T’s U-23 men and senior women have been grouped with some of the top countries in Comnebol and Concacaf for the football competitions of the 2015 Pan American Games, which runs from July 11-26 in Toronto, Canada.

The venue for all matches is the Tim Hortons Field, in Hamilton.

The men and women’s competitions are comprised of eight teams each, separated into two groups with the top two teams from each group advancing directly to the semifinal stage.

On the men’s side, T&T’s U-23 have been grouped with Paraguay, Uruguay and Mexico. The other group consists of Canada, Peru, Panama and Brazil.

The women’s team, meanwhile, sees T&T up against Mexico, Argentina and Colombia, while Ecuador, who beat T&T to the final Fifa Women’s World Cup spot last year, is in Group B along with Canada, Brazil and Costa Rica.

The U-23 men’s team coach, Zoran Vranes, who has been active with the team since his appointment last week, spoke after the draw and said he welcomes the challenge. 

“We need games like these,” he said in relation to the preliminary fixtures against Uruguay (July 13), Paraguay  (July 17) and Mexico (July 21).

“The stronger the opposition, the better for us.

“I think we have a pretty good squad of players with very good individual strength and talent. And I must commend the (football) association for doing what it can to try to get all the players involved in the preparations (and for hopefully getting a camp before we head to Canada).”

He said he looks forward to using the matches as preparation for the second leg of Olympic qualification.

“Teams like Uruguay and Paraguay are quality opponents for us to challenge and well, you know,  Mexico is always a big test for us,” he added.

 Vranes, will conduct another training session this morning at the Hasely Crawford Stadium.

 Four years ago at the last Pan Am Games in Guadalajara, Mexico, T&T performed well, but was unable to advance to the knockout round after its three 1-1 draws. They played the host team, Mexico, as well as Ecuador and Uruguay. That team included a number of current national senior team players including Sheldon Bateau, Kevin Molino, Joevin Jones, Shahdon Winchester and others.

Prior to their departure to Canada, the same Olympic team will start their challenge for a spot in next year’s Olympic Games on June 24, when they meet their first CFU group opponent, Suriname, in Puerto Rico. The team will subsequently face the host team as well as the winner of a match between St Vincent and Dominica.

Meanwhile on the women’s side, Jason Spence, the team’s assistant coach who is overseeing team business in the absence of a head coach, says he is confident given the quality of players.

“The present pool of players at the senior level as shown in their recent World Cup campaign bid are an exceptional group and will be very eager to continue their good run at the Pan-Am Games against some quality teams,” Spence said, adding, “this entire group from that campaign are still very much up for selection so it's just a matter of putting the necessary in place to have them all together out to training.”

MEN (Group B): Trinidad & Tobago, Mexico, Uruguay, Paraguay
July 13: T&T vs Uruguay
July 17: Paraguay vs T&T
July 21: T&T vs Mexico

WOMEN (Group A): Trinidad & Tobago, Mexico, Argentina, Colombia
July 11: Argentina vs T&T
July 14: Colombia vs T&T
July 18: T&T vs Mexico