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National women’s football coach Jamaal Shabazz, centre, is keen to see this country be the premier force in the Caribbean again.
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T&T Women's footballers will return to the practice pitch today after getting just one day off yesterday, following their triumph at the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) Challenge Series at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Balmain Couva on Sunday night.

The team is preparing to contest the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers, Caribbean Round from May 21 at home and coach Jamaal Shabazz said yesterday he wants to be able to compete with the Concacaf teams. "One area we have to work on to become competitive in Concacaf is our attitude. We have to give more effort on winning the ball, and also we're making that transition into how we attack," Shabazz said.

On Sunday, however, that didn't seem to be an issue though with the team producing 18 goals which included a classy display against Guyana to record a 3-1 victory and win the tournament.

Despite 7-0 and 8-1 victories over Suriname and Grenada respectively, it was the Guyanese that brought the best out of the T&T women, who showed the attitude of a winning team by displaying progressive possession, patience, ability to switch the ball from side to side while under pressure and created numerous chances that needed the intervention of dogged defending to prevent the T&T strikers from scoring.

Shabazz insists though that while he was pleased with the way his girls responded during their matches, they must not lose focus of the fact that they will be facing a much higher standard of football when the Concacaf qualifiers begin. "We still have work to do, as it is still a work in progress," Shabazz said.

He noted, "The girls gave a good account of themselves and we are now starting to look like a top team in the Caribbean once again, but the reality is that we are not there yet. We are aspiring to compete at the Concacaf level, and we want to do so without some of the top players that kept us competitive at that level for many years."

The team is expected to be strengthened over the coming days as more overseas based players will be coming to join the squad, making competition for places more difficult.

RELATED NEWS

Shabazz: We can be Caribbean force again.
By Joel Bailey (Newsday).


As focus shifts to 2019 World Cup qualifying…

NATIONAL WOMEN’S football team coach Jamaal Shabazz is turning his attention towards the start of the 2018 CONCACAF Women’s Championship qualification, which will get going this month.

T&T will be hosting Group C, alongside Dominica, Grenada, St Kitts/Nevis and the US Virgin Islands, in First Round action from May 19-27.

In total, there will be five groups involved in First Round games this month, with the group winners advancing to the Final Round, from July 21-29, from which the top three will progress to the 2018 CONCACAF Women’s Championship.

Eight teams will participate in the CONCACAF Women’s Championship, in the US, from October 4-17. The top three teams will automatically book spots to the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup in France, while the fourth-placed team will engage in a playoff with the third-placed team from CONMEBOL (South American governing body).

T&T finished their Group E participation in the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) Women’s Challenge Series with a 100-per cent record (7-0 over Suriname on Wednesday, 8-1 against Grenada on Friday and 3-1 over Guyana on Sunday) at the Ato Boldon Stadium, Couva. In a post-game interview on Sunday, Shabazz said, “We’re back on the field for a recovery session on Tuesday (today) and then (from) Thursday full speed ahead again. No time to rest.”

“This tournament did not qualify us for anything,” added the T&T coach. “What it has done is renewed our confidence and lifted the spirits of the programme. Now it’s back down to serious preparation for the qualifying tournament.”

Reflecting on Sunday’s match, Shabazz pointed out, “There is a (verse) in the Quran which (translates to) ‘God says after the hardship comes the ease’. So it’s a good feeling. Too much hardship with regards to the result that we can get an ease, and that we can smell the feeling that we can become a force in the Caribbean again.”

Asked what was the ease that he was referring to, Shabazz responded, “The fact that we won three games, the fact we scored a bundle of goals, the fact that players are growing in confidence and seeing the need to get up off their laurels and work harder, and not just think that the victory will come based on the reputation that was established many years ago.”

Overall, the ex-national and Guyana men’s coach was pleased with the desire to score from the TT women attackers, as well as the players’ fitness levels.

He added, “I think the players have responded well to being pushed. Going forward in the preparations for the qualifiers, I think that it’s going to be very competitive for spots.”

On the other side of the coin, he disclosed, “If I’ll have to look at one negative, I think the veteran players, when things don’t go well, have got to show a lot more leadership, on the field.”

Shabazz was pleased with the turnout of fans at the Couva venue for the three matches. “It’s always good that the public can come out. We’ll want to encourage them to keep coming out when the tournament starts,” he ended.

With a five-team group and matches every two days, has the technical staff requested a larger squad?

Shabazz replied, “I am going to request to the TTFA (TT Football Association) that we’re allowed to have a squad of 23 players. To ask people to play four games in eight days is going to be very difficult.”

Excluding goalkeeper Saundra Baron, who has returned to the US, the rest of the 20-member squad will continue training for the qualifiers.

Shabazz noted that a few foreign-born players will be added to the training squad, as well as the North America-based trio of Kayla Taylor and twins Khadidra and Khadisha Debesette.