Sun, Aug

U-20 skipper Gomez stays hopeful.

T&T Under-20 Soca Warriors captain Shannon Gomez is still trying to pull himself together from the disappointment of this country’s failure in their quest to qualify for the upcoming Fifa Under-20 World Cup in New Zealand.

Gomez and the rest of the team returned home on Thursday night from Jamaica where they lost their must-win final Group A match, 1-0 to USA, at the Concacaf U-20 Championship at the Montego Bay Sports Complex on Wednesday. 

The result meant the Derek King-coached T&T squad were booted out of the tournament with Panama (maximum 15 points) qualifying for the World Cup while USA and Guatemala advanced to the playoffs as second and third placed teams with 10 points each.

Gomez made a call for the current bunch to be kept in training for future outings.

“I would really like for this U-20 bunch to be kept together and training, if not as a team right through, at least for us to be part of a consistent programme,” Gomez said.

“We have the U-23 Olympic Games qualification to look forward to as well as the Pan American Games. This will be a good opportunity for us to continue as a team going forward.”

He noted some of the positives for the team coming away from this tourney, crediting his teammates for their willingness to play down to the wire.

“We had a fight in us to keep playing and not give up. We went out in every game and gave our all for country. We felt like we were the better team in some of our games but we failed to take our scoring chances and it hurt us. It was very disappointing for all of us that we worked our socks off and the results didn’t go our way.

“We were left heartbroken and disappointed but with some hope. What I think will do well for us is proper all round team preparation, more financing and support. These things will factor in our general readiness for international competition.”

Speaking after the match, King was understandably disappointed but saw some positive points to take away from the competition and said progress would continue with the right approach going forward.

“Preparation is the key. We were not outplayed by any of the teams here in this tournament but when you look at their resources and what their preparation looked like it could prove to be the difference. I’m not making excuses but teams like Canada and USA have much more in their build ups to these tournaments. And we still competed with everyone including Panama which went on to qualify for the World Cup.

“I hope we can keep this team together because they are the future players for our country’s senior team. Stephen Hart was impressed and other coaches as well who witnessed the team play.

“As a team and a nation we still have to work to get up to being comfortable playing at that level on a consistent basis. I think the players realised the work that has to be done mentally and physically. We also have to keep working on our finishing and stop conceding soft goals. The guys need to keep their heads up and move on from this. The plus for us here is that we were able to match these teams,” said King.

In today’s final, Panama and Mexico, which also qualified automatically for New Zealand as Group B winners will meet in the final, while in the winner-take-all playoff matches, USA meets El Salvador and Guatemala battles Honduras.

The next assignment for the team is the Pan American Games in Canada later this year. The U-17 men’s team meantime is continuing training at the Ato Boldon Stadium, Couva for the Concacaf U-17 Final round of World Cup qualifiers in Honduras next month.