Trinidad and Tobago’s National under 17 footballers, vying for a spot in the 2007 FIFA Under 17 World Championship, will go into their final live-in training camp on home soil at the Chaconia Inn from Friday less than a week ahead of their departure for Kingston, Jamaica.
The local team of 20 players to contest the final round of the CONCACAF final qualifying round from April 28-26 was announced by head coach Anton Corneal as he related the fact that he will be taking a squad of players that have been part of the national set up for at least two years. Only two players forward Marcus Joseph, midfielder Micah Lewis and midfielder Kevin Molino have been with the squad for six months.
Additionally, US-born striker Isaiah Ferguson, who has trained with the national team before and is attached to American MLS team New York Red Bulls, will arrive in Trinidad on Saturday to join the squad for the tournament.
The rest of the squad have played for T&T at the Under 15 level and have been together since 2005. The TTFF began its screening in October 2004 and both Technical Director Lincoln Phillips and Corneal said back then that the process was to discover players for development teams for 2007.
“It’s all on the end of a process that we have stuck to with some of these same players making up the original Under 15 team that played in the CFU Youth Cup in 2005 and have graduated to the Under 17 level. Now the major test is going into the final round of qualification for the World Championship,” Corneal told TTFF Media.
The players omitted from the squad that has been in preparations include forwards Daniel Joseph who has a hamstring injury, defender Adrian Hall, forwards Franz Husbands and Jerrel Brito. The trio of Joseph, Brito and Husbands are three of the five strikers Corneal had in his training squad which means that a couple others may be rotate to fill the void if and when required.
The regulars such as TTFF Youth “Player of the Year” for 2006 Leston Paul, Chad De Freitas, captain Jesse Fullerton, striker Stephen Knox, defender Robert Primus, defender Jean Luc Rochford, midfielder Sean De Silva and central midfielder Chike Sullivan have all made the cut.
“This is the squad that we have come up with after months of preparation and close observation,” Corneal added. “We have tried to play teams that are a few years older than us because we have also played those closer to our age group and beaten them. We played W Connection’s Reserve team and won 1-0. We felt there was a need to get stronger physical challenges hence we went for the teams with more senior players. This allowed the boys to get a feel of what it would be like to play with added intensity and vigor,” he said.
The team lost 2-0 to Harvard in a training encounter with Mervyn Moore and Kareem Freitas scoring before the break on Thursday but Corneal is well aware that though his team pressured and created sufficient scoring possibilities to warrant a win, coming up against the likes of Costa Rica (April 28), USA (April 30), Canada (May 4) and Jamaica (May 6) will require less flaws and better finishing as they seek to be among the three countries from the group that will advance to the FIFA Under 17 World Championship in Korea in August.
“We know every game will be a tough one but we will start with Costa Rica first. That’s our main focus at the moment. We have seen what they look like and we got some practice against the Mexicans who faced them as well. We have a fair idea as to how the Americans and Canada play and we can expect them to be technically sound and solid at the youth level as they usually are. We have faced Jamaica before and even though we got the better of them last time it is anyone’s guess that they could be different this time around and they could be thinking the same as us. Everything will tell in the tournament,” Corneal assured. Also traveling with the team is teacher Nazir Baksh who has been working with the boys with some 12 of them preparing for the CXC O’level examinations.
T&T Under 17 team for Final Round
Goalkeepers – Jesse Fullerton (Cypress Bay High School, Florida), Glenroy Samuel (San Juan Jabloteh)
Defenders – Robert Primus (CL Financial San Juan Jabloteh), Aubrey Davis (Vessigny Government), Jean Luc Rochford (Joe Public), Brenton Balbosa (Defence Force), Stephen Chang (San Juan Jabloteh), Ryan O’Neil (Defence Force), Sheldon Bateau (San Juan Jabloteh)
Midfielders – Akeem Adams (W Connection), Daneil Cyrus (Stokelyvale FC), Chike Sullivan (San Juan Jabloteh), Micah Lewis (San Juan Jabloteh), Chad De Freitas (Superstar Rangers), Kevin Molino (San Juan Jabloteh), Sean De Silva (Superstar Rangers), Leston Paul (Defence Force).
Forwards – Marcus Joseph (Petrotrin), Stephen Knox (San Juan Jabloteh), Isaiah Ferguson (New York Red Bulls)
Staff – Anton Corneal (head coach), Hutson Charles (assistant coach), Ross Russell (Goalkeeper coach), Gilbert Bateau (Trainer), Michael Taylor (physiotherapist), Mario John (Doctor), Esmond O’Brien (equipment officer), Christopher Gouveia (manager), Oswald Davis (assistant manager)