The last Trinidad & Tobago national team -- of any kind -- to play at home in a competitive match earned a huge win, one that sent shockwaves throughout the football world.
That’s why head coach Jamaal Shabazz realizes an intense spotlight will be on his side, when it hosts the 2018 CONCACAF Under-20 Women’s Championship in January.
“We have a serious act to follow with Trinidad & Tobago’s victory in the men’s game against the USA,” said Shabazz, referring to the Soca Warriors surprising 2-1 win on the last day of CONCACAF qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, a result that eliminated the Americans. “Now, the public’s interest has really peaked.”
A feel-good factor from that October 10 evening is expected to carryover into the U20’s CONCACAF campaign. It will be the first time that T&T has hosted the finals of Confederation women’s competition since the 2008 CONACACF Under-17 Women’s Championship.
Although T&T has never qualified for a FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup – falling agonizingly short in 2014 -- Shabazz is shaping a team for the challenge and pressure generated by performing in front of the home supporters.
“It’s a great pleasure to play at home and to host the United States, Mexico, Canada, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and the rest of the Caribbean teams,” he expressed. “In our country, a lot is expected of you when you play at home.
“The women’s program, at one time, was the top in the Caribbean. Then, it fell away because we did not do the development work. Under this new administration, we’ve started to put things in place at U13 and U11. This under-20 team that is participating in this tournament, they themselves came out of a development program some years ago. They’ve done well in CONCACAF at U-15 level some years ago, so we expect a lot from them.”
What can we ultimately expect to see from the T&T U20s come January?
Shabazz smiled and finished: “Commitment, exciting football and the desire to finally pass that threshold and qualify for a World Cup.”
That should be enough to get the supporters out in large numbers to Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva from January 18-28, 2018.